October 18th, 2007

spring

Describing Stuff

"I'll Gnaw Your Bones, the Manticore Said" is mentioned in The SF Bookswap's round-up of summer online fiction.

Last night we talked about description in the class I've been teaching. Here are some of the uses of description that I listed -- description can accomplish one (or some or all!) of them. I'd be curious to hear what people might add to the list.

Description can:
  • Provide the reader with information about the person through whom the description is filtered, information which they may or may not be aware of.
  • Guide a reader towards a particular emotion or interpretation.
  • Be used to slow the narrative down and control the pacing as needed.
  • Underscore or explain a theme or motif.
  • Create a minor sub-plot.
  • Foreshadow or miniaturize something.
  • Wrap things up.
  • Engage one or more (preferably more) of the reader's senses.
I also suggested copying out description longhand in a notebook when you find a passage that you particularly like, and looking at it to see the whys and hows of its inner workings. I got in that habit via a class I took at Hopkins with Jean McGarry, and ended up with a notebook full of passages from Colette and Kawabata and Nabokov, which may explain some of my overly florid prose.

Later added: found via velourmane, a wonderful post from Feministe, OMG Teh Hysterical Feminists Again!, which is well worth the read.


(And how nice to look at the KGB photos and see several of my favorite people! Love the picture of ktempest and her fan.)