Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Writing - The power of description

I have read loads of books in the last 50+ years and loved many of them, but quite often the sections I remember are descriptions. If you think about it that is quite logical as it is description that sets scenes, introduces characters and puts events into the readers mind.

Image result for hms ulysses

One of the first memorable descriptions I encountered was in the above book. It is a description of the sea during a winter, Murmansk convoy during the second world war. Alistair MacLean manages to convey movement, the sullenness and power of the sea on the page. It hooked me into reading all of his books even though that section only lasted two or three pages.

Image result for Friday Nights by Caleb Pirtle

I was reminded of the power of description in Caleb Pirtle III's latest novel Friday Nights Don't Last Forever available on Kindle.


The dream of college football propels Casey Clinton into the best and worst times of his life. On Friday nights in Avalon, Alabama, football reigns supreme. Quarterback Casey Clinton’s magic arm drives recruiters and his opponents wild. Girls worship him. A preacher’s wife seduces him. Life can’t be any better.

Although Caleb is writing about an American Footballer that is a vehicle for an examination of the pressures and emotions involved for a young man in almost any professional sport. It is very well put together and well worth a read.

A extract

He had seen it all before.
He knew what they all knew.
Glory lay only ten steps away.
In a split second, it would all be over.
Ten steps.
That wasn't much.
Jesus, he could piss that far.
The cold rain washed the sweat from his face. The pain had subsided. The blood was drying where his lip had been split by a linebacker's elbow.
It was all instinct now.
Casey Clinton had one last chance to reach glory ...

If you wish to know what happens next click on the link above.

Of course there are instances when description can become too long and unwieldy. My favourite author, Charles Dickens is guilty of that sin on occasions. In fact overly descriptive prose can be as much a turn off as a turn on and only the writer knows what he/she is trying to achieve with their descriptions. I like the way in which Caleb Pirtle uses shorter sentences to maintain pace and heighten interest while building the tension in the readers mind. Dickens, in Barnaby Rudge (for me the lest readable of his books) has sentences that are a paragraph long. It introduces a turgidity into the process of reading which is a turn off in my opinion.

I am often guilty of moving on too quickly as I seem to be driven by the events when I should take the time to complete the picture before creating the action. I think I'm learning to be better!

God Bless