For me, there is nothing better than reading prose that creates a powerful, almost spiritual image in my mind.
This sparkly gem is courtesy of Sena Jeter Naslund’s “Ahab’s Wife or, The Star-Gazer”:
The sea is silver as far as eye can see. Soft sliver, bending and bluish, sometimes brushed with mist above the swells. And in the distance to the far north, yes, a white expanse of iceberg. Here’s its breath, all about me. I feel the little hairs in my nose try to freeze for all the light of the sun.
Or Barbara Kingsolver’s opening paragraph in “The Poisonwood Bible”:
First picture the forest. I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees. The trees are columns of slick, brindled bark like muscular animals overgrown beyond all reason. Every space is filled with life: delicate, poisonous frogs war-painted like skeletons, clutched in copulation, secreting their precious eggs onto dripping leaves. Vines strangling their own kin in the everlasting wrestle for sunlight. The breathing of monkeys. A glide of snake belly on branch. A single-file army of ants biting a mammoth tree into uniform grains and hauling it down to the dark for their ravenous queen. And, in reply, a choir of seedlings arching their necks out of rotted tree stumps, sucking life out of death. This forest eats itself and lives forever.
Have you painted a picture for your readers lately?
Have you given them some image so vivid, so alive that they can smell, taste, touch or hear it?
Despite the modern reader’s need for quick, concise storytelling, I maintain there is still room for stylish prose that sings.
You may be sparing in your selections, but strive for active describing words that awaken the senses and evoke strong feelings.
Look back on the passages highlighted here. Which words were most powerful?
Then, write — or rewrite — one of your own paragraphs and see if magic doesn’t happen.
Kerri S. Mabee