Friday, February 15, 2013

Setting Descriptions

Last week I talked about an author whose character descriptions I admire. Today I'm going to continue the theme by spotlighting an author whose setting descriptions just blow me away. As a reader, I'm not really big on reading setting descriptions, but Holly Black does such an amazing job putting me right in the scene that her descriptions are a joy to read. Both these excerpts are from Chapter 1 of Tithe:

The air was heavy and stank of drying mussels and the crust of salt on the jetties. Waves tossed themselves against the shore, dragging grit and sand between their nails as they were slowly pulled back out to sea.

A few lines later:

She loved the serene brutality of the ocean, loved the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.

I can see the waves, feel the heavy air, smell the drying mussels, taste the briny air, and feel the grit and sand. All in three sentences that are poetic and effortless, not dragged down with the effort of trying to convey too much.

Do you have an author whose setting descriptions you particularly admire?

22 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I can definitely feel the ocean.
Crap, now I want to go add more desert flavor to my book...

Jennifer Shirk said...

Lovely. I do think Lisa KLeypas does a nice job with descriptions. I sometimes feel like a fly on the wall in her books.

DEZMOND said...

I think that the best way to have successful descriptions like those is to imagine the scenes visually and then describe them. Like a movie scene - you have to set the light, the photography, the angle, everything.

Brian said...

Those are so simple and extremely effective! Have a fun weekend!

Theresa Milstein said...

Those excerpts pack a punch. I love the way Franny Billingsley used description in Chime. What a strong voice too. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu has vivid language as well. I wish I had them in front of me.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Wow, that was a very effective description. Making mental notes now. Happy Friday!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Those are incredibly powerful!

Describing those settings is one of the hardest things for me! Lots to learn here :)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wow, those are powerful description! Setting is so important. :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Sure, Holly makes it look so easy. :P I don't remember those descriptions. It's been a long while since I've read the books.

Old Kitty said...

Lovely Susan! These words make me wish for summer and a trip to the seaside!!

p.s. I love your new spooky coffee mug...! Yay! Take care
x

Cherie Reich said...

Definitely amazing descriptions, and she manages to say so much with so little.

Medeia Sharif said...

I love descriptions of setting. It makes me feel like I'm right there and setting can also become a character.

Nas said...

To me as a reader, setting is important. I have to be able to visualize a scene in my mind to really connect with the characters.

Yes, these are powerful settings and takes you in the scene.

Alan said...

Have to agree w/your assessment of Holly Black. Thanks for sharing such a good example. Certainly something we all can shoot for as we develop our scenes/settings.

Jackee said...

Those are nice! I admire authors who can get a great setting (or characterization) perfect in just a few sentences. I think Code Name Verity does a great job with setting.

Have a great night! <3

Margo Berendsen said...

That's the challenge isn't it, getting powerful details into just a sentence or two!! Makes you pick each word with incredible care.

emilymhjohnson said...

Ooo! Now I want to read that book. I think Shannon Hale has some lovely descriptions in her books. I agree with you that setting descriptions are often a little clunky and distracting but when you find a good one, it can really transport you away to another time and place.

Kelly Polark said...

wow! She really nailed those descriptions. Great example!

Tess said...

I agree - great pieces here.

Just coming by to say hello :D :D

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Yes! Just beautiful. They're setting descriptions to sink your teeth into. So much substance. You can really visualize it, but the lyricism also pulls you in.

Carol Riggs said...

Wow, I love the phrase "serene brutality"--awesome! Wonderful sensory descriptions here. :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Gorgeous excerpts. Well written descriptions always make me pause and appreciate. Well done setting descriptions place the reader right where he or she belongs. Now I want to read Tithe. ; )