Sunday, August 7, 2016
How much description is too much?
Ernest Hemmingway was a writer who got to the point. Cliff Notes, that longstanding resource of harassed college students, described his style thus:
Basically, his style is simple, direct, and unadorned, probably as a result of his early newspaper training. He avoids the adjective whenever possible, but because he is a master at transmitting emotion without the flowery prose of his Victorian novelist predecessors, the effect is far more telling.
He used short sentences and a terse style to get to the point in his stories and avoided adjectives.
When I read a book with a lot of adjectives and adverbs it can feel like I am walking on sand or worse, deep mud. The story seems weighed down and it seems like the author is determined that I can visualize the scene or person just in the way he or she does. I paused at Chapter 2 of a particular, to be unnamed mystery novel, after some ceramic floor tiles were described as celadon, unfortunately a new word to me and this fact nagged at me sufficiently that I had to put down the book and look for my laptop and Dictionary.com. (The colour is pale green or green-gray, by the way) I thought I had mastered the colour wheel when I familiarized myself with puce, chartreuse and cerulean.
The heroine had copper coloured hair and wore an aqua camisole and nude pumps, the second character silky golden hair, navy slacks and a gray linen blazer, a third, mink brown hair and green eyes. Then there was the aquaintance with doe-like brown eyes . . .
What is your preference? Lots of details and adjectives or do you create the character's appearance in your own mind?