Adam Fould's thoughts on How to Write Fiction have been printed in the Guardian recently and I have bookmarked them so I can reread them again and again. He quotes some lovely descriptions by famous authors but warns us that we break down reality and reassemble it according to our own thoughts and perceptions every time we write a description.
That was enough to make me stop and re-consider what I've written lately, and I resolved to go back and see what I can improve.
He quotes Flaubert: No matter whether good or bad, it is a delectable thing, writing! not having to be yourself, being able to circulate in amongst the whole creation that you are describing. Today for instance, as a man and as a woman, as lover and mistress both, I have been out riding in a forest on an autumn afternoon, and I was the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words that they spoke to each other and the red sunlight that made them half-close their eyes, eyes that were brimming with love.
Fould's article here is quite long, and if you go to it, you’ll read his analysis of how each description works on more than one level. As an interesting aside, it struck me that Flaubert’s words are not so far removed from Ian Rankin’s description of being an author - quoted on this blog a post or two back.
Evelyn Waugh’s paragraph from his 1934 novel, A Handful of Dust captures typical English weather. Outside, it was soft English weather; mist in the hollows and pale sunshine on the hills; the coverts had ceased dripping, for there were no leaves to hold the recent rain, but the undergrowth was wet, dark in the shadows, iridescent where the sun caught it; the lanes were soggy and there was water running in the ditches.
But there’s method and more than pretty description in those words. Read the article and learn more.
Foulds will be teaching a Guardian Masterclass alongside Sarah Hall on Fiction Writing in London on 28-29 January 2012 for those lucky enough to attend.