Sunday Style: Description – Beyond Reporting to Visioning

1159418_key_x_from_vintage_typewriterSunday Style is back at your service after a week’s vacation. I’m returning with a debrief about the fourth session I attended at the Writer’s On The Sound Workshop. This session was Description: Beyond Reporting to Visioning.

Something about this workshop reminded me of being in college. There was a lot of telling and not much doing. As an adult learner, I am one of those people that needs to be an active participant in my learning and I also need to contribute what I know.  The manner in which this session was taught provided me with a good reminder of how to approach learners in my workshops so that my sessions involves them in the process of learning.

I appreciated the challenge of following a more academic lecture and came away with new insights about description, including:

  • Keep a notebook of descriptions you read: include what it is, where it appears in the narrative and why it struck you (this is in the context of something that you read and which grabs your attention as a powerful description)
  • Description can’t bump the reader out of a narrative (this thought is along the lines of making it seem natural and part of the overall piece)
  • Get deep inside your characters and feel what they are sensing

As an example of keeping a notebook, the instructor gave us a handout with about twenty different passages that she felt were noteworthy samples of how to use description. One brief and powerful selection was by Barry Lopez in “White Herons”:

The young gingko trees spaced so evenly along the edge of the avenue seemed like prisoners to him, indentured ten thousand miles from China.

Another sentence from a longer passage she shared from a novel called Joe by Larry Brown was:

A lump of gristle in his neck pumped up and down until he trailed the can away from his mouth with his face still turned up, one drop of beer falling away from the can before it was flung, spinning, backward into the ditch.

As I read I’m finding that I am more aware of description as a result of attending this workshop. Writing this post is a good reminder that I need to start jotting down the examples of description that are relevant to me and which I’d like to emulate in my own writing.

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2 Responses to Sunday Style: Description – Beyond Reporting to Visioning

  1. Leah says:

    Keeping a notebook is a great idea. I often underline in a book if I come across a metaphor or description that I really like, but it makes more sense to have theses gems all in one place. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Liz says:

    I agree, Leah — having them in one central location is appealing. I also underline but never remember to go back and re-read what I’ve underlined!

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