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Posts Tagged ‘fatcs’

“The man was tall and slim and walked with a limp. He had been hit by a car when he was a teenager and the orthopedic specialist had said that the bones in that leg would always be shorter than those in the other leg.” 45 words

“John limped to his car. As always, he tried to walk without limping but on wet days the ache in his bones made it almost impossible. Some days, despite his height and strength, he felt like an old man.”  39 words

I wrote the two paragraphs above to demonstrate two ways of describing a single character. The first gives you the man’s back story – how he came to have his limp. It shows you the facts behind the description.

The second description puts a name to the man and this in itself draws you closer to the story. The facts you read (his name, he has a car, tall, strong) are all about right now, not the past. More importantly, that bit of description lets you go right into his feelings and emotions. You are not just observing him from several feet away, you are within him, experiencing his emotions. You can’t get much closer than that in less than 40 words.

The closer the reader or listener gets to the story, the more strongly they feel it and become involved with it. Let’s try another description:

“She walked down the street to the church wearing a pink flowered dress and a lacy white scarf. She was carrying her mother’s pink purse. Her blond hair shone in the sunlight and her blue eyes sparkled. On her feet she wore 4″ stiletto heels.” 45 words

“Claire took almost an hour to dress, finally choosing the pink dress that seemed appropriate for church. She washed her hair, tried to flatten her curls and dug out an old pink handbag of her mothers. The 4″ stiletto heels she couldn’t resist.” 43 words

Again, putting a name to the person brings us closer right away. The first description seems to me to be flat – the person is a cardboard cut-out. The blond hair and blue eyes are a cliche and where else would she wear four inch heels but on her feet? You get no feeling for her or about her.

In the second description Claire isn’t in the street, but you know she is going to church. You can see her nervously choosing clothes she hopes are right. For what? You begin to wonder about this person. Why does she think all that pink is appropriate? Why use her mother’s purse? Why is she flattening her curls? Why has it taken her so long?

The second description gives us almost the same facts as the first, but it has also drawn us into the story. We are asking questions, wanting to know more. What comes next?

Only the story teller knows the answer. That is the magic of story telling.

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