Showing posts with label Capote. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Capote. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Saluting Capote's Descriptive Voice

For me, the characteristic that sets an author's writing above the others is a strong descriptive voice. Descriptions captivate me when they flow like water down the riverbed of a story. I want to be pulled into the characters' world through all five of my senses, until my imagination is alive in their reality.

I aspire to write what I'd want to read.

One of the masters of literary fiction was Truman Capote. His penchant for prolific prose was astounding, and his rich descriptions permeate his short stories, novellas, and novels. I'd looked forward to reading Breakfast at Tiffany's this week (the local library's copy was checked out), but settled on a collection of short stories based on Capote's childhood. Here is an excerpt from A Christmas Memory that illustrates perfectly why I admire Capote's descriptive genuis:

Silently, wallowing in the pleasures of conspiracy, we take the bead purse from its secret place and spill its contents on the scrap quilt. Dollar bills, tightly rolled and green as May buds. Somber fifty-cent pieces, heavy enough to weight a dead man's eyes. Lovely dimes, the liveliest coin, the one that really jingles. Nickels and quarters, worn smooth as creek pebbles. Bost mostly a hateful heap of bitter-odored pennies. Last summer, others in the house contracted us a penny for every twenty-five flies we killed. Oh, the carnage of August: the flies that flew to heaven! Yet it was not work in which we took pride. And, as we sit counting pennies, it is as though we were back tabulating dead flies. (Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory, page 10)

The poetic descriptions for the various pieces of money not only held my attention, but they brought the narrating character into sharper focus. Clearly, the narrator was not a city dweller. Only a country boy would see springtime buds in rolled dollar bills or equate worn coins with the smoothness of water-eroded stones. The narrator was not wealthy in the traditional sense, otherwise he wouldn't have kept coins hidden in a beaded purse, had a scrap quilt on the bed, or accepted a job paying only a penny per twenty-five dead flies. We're shown so much in such a short paragraph.

When I read his work, I glean a lesson in creative writing in every paragraph of a Capote story.

Who are your author champions, the writers who exemplify what you'd like to achieve in your own work?