Thursday, January 24, 2008

Descriptions, Descriptions, Descriptions.

I've been thinking a lot in terms of the descriptive lately with a heavy focus on people. Living in New York gives you the opportunity to be inspired again and again by the hundreds of people you pass daily. I watched the old man sitting across from me on my way into work and I imagined what I would describe about him if he were to be a character in a story of mine.

Would it be his newish brown coat with the plaid lining that looked all at once trendy yet tradition. His fresh ironed and starched pants blue work pants that could have been part of a suit or a work uniform, leading me to wonder about his blue or white collar status. Would it be the way that he sat, slightly overweight and hunched in his seat that reminded me of an adolescent. The way that his large jowly cheeks hung around his mouth, as if in anticipation of the many expressions that passed through his face over the seventy odd years of his life. His elongated nose, that somehow drew attention to the sleepy eyes on either side of them. The
white hair of his eyebrows. Or simply the girlishly long and extraordinary immaculately clean nails at the end of his yellow -grayish skinned fingers, that cleared up the earlier speculation of his status in life. They were not the nails of someone who had labored all their lives.

I passed a description of one of the main characters, Rahel, in The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy which I found particularly pleasing a few days ago and I had no context until now in which to write about it:
He first noticed Rahel in the school library and then again, a few days later in Khan Market. She was in jeans and a white T-shirt. Part of an old patchwork bedspread was buttoned around her neck and trailed behind her like a cape. Her wild hair was tied back to look straight, though it wasn't. A tiny diamond gleamed in one nostril. She had absurdly beautiful collarbones and a nice athletic run.
There goes a jazz tune, Larry McClaslin though to himself, and followed her into a bookshop, where neither of them looked at books.
What I found particularly striking about the description are the way these details, tied into the context of the story and say so much about Rahel without saying anything at all and how it also gives you a glimpse into Larry who finds this strange and chaotic woman attractive.

These are the talents I hope to somehow absorb and translate into my work over the coming months. Descriptions that add to the bigger picture of the narrative in just a few short sentences, revealing enough to give the reader an idea into the psyche of the character but not to ruin the imagination.

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