Description Written by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors. She has a talent for addressing difficult topics in her fiction writing that makes the reader wrestle with a moral issue. In her most recent novel, Great Small Things, she tackles race relations in America.

Great Small Things focuses on a nurse of one race and a couple of another race whose baby is in a life-or-death situation. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend that you do.

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

In Small Great Things, Turk Bauer is a white racist. Ms. Picoult could have written pages of prose to describe Mr. Bauer’s personality and demeanor, but she was able to sum it up in the following sentence:

“Turk Bauer makes me think of a power line that’s snapped during a storm, and lies across the road just waiting for something to brush against it so it can shoot sparks.” – Jodi Picoult in Small Great Things.

What a vivid picture! If you read nothing else about Turk Bauer, that one sentence would tell you pretty much all you needed to know about him. I hope I can write character descriptions like that some day!

More and more I’m learning that in order to be a good writer, a person needs to read a lot. I’m so absorbed in reading books this year that I have spent very little time writing. I need to strike a happy medium and make time for both, but the public library has so many good books and a number of my favorite authors have new books being released in October. As the saying goes, “So many books, so little time!”

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m listening to a novel on CD, The Saboteur, by Andrew Gross. I read The One Man, by Andrew Gross, last year and blogged about it (What I read in November.) I’ve wanted to read some of Mr. Gross’s other books ever since.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I generally don’t like to listen to books on CD. The waitlist at the public library for Mr. Gross’s latest novel was shorter for the CD than for any other format, so I decided to give it a try.

Listening to a book on CD usually gets on my last nerve; however, I’ve worked out a routine, with The Saboteur. I listen to one disc each day, which takes a little more than one hour. I use that time to do my physical therapy exercises for my shoulder. I like being able to get two things accomplished at the same time, and I’m finding that the length of one disc is about my attention limit.

What about you?

Do you prefer to read a traditional paper book, listen to a book on CD, or read a book on an electronic device? There is no right or wrong answer. Aren’t we fortunate to live in a time when there are books available in many different formats?


“Like a Throwback to Dracula”

I’ve been reading about describing characters. There are two schools of thought regarding that. Since writers write for readers, some readers were asked what they thought about character descriptions in novels.

Some readers want every last detail about the physical appearance of a character to be spelled out, but it seems that most readers don’t want a lot of physical details. They prefer to take what the author gives them and take it from there. They like to imagine in their minds what each character looks like.

Damaged, by Lisa Scottoline

In Damaged, by Lisa Scottoline, protagonist Mary DiNunzio managed in the following quote to give just enough description of fellow lawyer Nick Machiavelli:

“He wore his hair slicked back, like a throwback to Dracula, and his eyes were narrow slits, with dark brown irises that were the exact color of baking chocolate, and Mary would know.” – from Damaged, by Lisa Scottoline.

Ms. Scottoline could have written, “Nick Machiavelli was greasy” or “Nick Machiavelli was a greaser” and I would have conjured a picture in my mind; however, the phrase “like a throwback to Dracula” and his eyes that were narrow slits paints a more vivid picture of him in my mind.

“the exact color of baking chocolate”

Ms. Scottoline also cleverly threw in that Machiavelli’s irises “were the exact color of baking chocolate, and Mary would know.” That is more accurate than her just saying that he had brown eyes, and I love the phrase “and Mary would know.”

If that’s all we knew about Mary, we’d know that she either likes to bake with chocolate or she likes to eat things made with baking chocolate. Maybe both. Any chocolate-loving reader will immediately identify with Mary!

As I start to rewrite my novel, The Spanish Coin, and flesh out all the characters, I’m learning from writers and from readers what readers prefer. Therefore, I will minimize physical details and concentrate on describing them through their words and actions.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Stars Are Fire, by Anita Shreve. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.