Saturday, 3 October 2015

'The sunlight sparkled on the sea'

Clichés are often clichés for a reason. Sometimes they really do describe what is happening in the most concise and expressive way. The sunlight is sparkling on the sea. 

However accurate it might be, the writer who included this phrase in a piece of descriptive writing might be accused of being lazy or unimaginative. But how else would one describe it? 'Ribbons of silver light were reflected off the water'? 'The sunlight created an ever changing pattern of silver light on the waves'?  Verging on the pretentious, one feels. 

It is a challenge for a writer, to set the scene and create atmosphere, while avoiding the extremes of cliché or purple prose, or, God forbid, becoming a candidate for the  Bulwer-Lytton Awards.

These days, a digital camera is almost as essential to a writer as a laptop. Digital cameras are small enough and light enough to be carried everywhere and can be used to record anything that catches the attention. Whether it's a scene like the one above, derelict buildings, a document in a record office, a street scene,

an interesting building,

or an overgrown graveyard,

a writer can build up his or her own reference library of images. 

Describing sound is another challenge. Is it possible to improve on Matthew Arnold's description of waves breaking on a shingle beach?

No comments:

Post a Comment