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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Little Things

Details matter in a story, but it is important to be sparing. Huge blocks of verbose description shut the reader's mind down. Metaphors are essential, but need to be clever and original. Better to include one memorable simile in a story, one that catches the reader's breath, than pepper it with tired phrases. Some of those are worthy, but overused, and no one will enjoy them.

Take time when you are writing to stop and think about a face, a smell, a moonbeam or a knee. Let other thoughts merge with the object/sense/person you are describing and let something amazing lend itself to your description.

For example, my current favourite author, Barbara Comyns, describes a woman's face as '...like a melting strawberry ice-cream, rather a cheap one.' (Our Spoons Came From Woolworths). The ice-cream, soft, pink and oozing, creates a perfect picture of a soft fleshy woman. The addition of '...rather a cheap one' is brief, but blistering. I love it for its scantness.

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