Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme that asks a bookish question each week. You can join in by clicking the link above! This week’s question is:
Today’s question is connected to last week’s—descriptive writing is one of the ways writing has changed. Books from a century or two ago spent huge swaths of text describing locations and character traits, but modern writing does all of this in shorthand. You might know a character is short with blond hair and blue eyes, but the author leaves the rest for you to figure out on your own. The writer might tell you the story takes place at a beachside town, but leaves the details to your imagination. Why do you suppose this is? Is it that we have shorter attention spans these days? That, bombarded with video and photos as we are, we don’t NEED every detail of an unknown scene described, because we have a stock of images already in our heads?
I think the reduction of such detailed descriptions by many authors is due to the wide access we have to such a huge range of images in movies, TV, the internet, etc.–plus more opportunities for travel–which makes all those fabulously detailed descriptions from authors of long ago so admirable! THEY didn’t have access to a storehouse of all of those mental images either, yet they were able to paint such vivid pictures for their readers. And, of course, that’s the gift of a truly talented writer. There are still writers today whose trademark is lengthy descriptions of settings and characters, but I think there’s a portion of today’s readers who tend to skip over those parts just to keep the plot moving for themselves. And that’s all part of the freedom we have to read whatever–and however–we wish!
What about you? Is there an author you enjoy mainly for their breathtaking descriptions of locations or characters? Which authors or books–modern or classic–paint the most vivid pictures in your mind? Please share!