Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Plot Versus Description.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

Example One:

The door hinges squeaked eerily in the evening breeze. The door thunked softly against the wall as John entered with gun drawn. His savage eyes sweeping the room for danger, he listened intently. Moonlit branches cast cool shadows across the indistinct floor, soft underfoot. His quarry had to be here.

Example Two:

The door hinges gleamed dully in the soft moonlight, the thick wood dark in the corner of the room, away from the light cast by a hundred heavily-mullioned Georgian windows. The door swung across the patterned Astrakhan rug, woven in a multi-hued potpouri of colours and textures, all of them warm and inviting. A tall, svelte John Vermilion-Dragonpuss stepped lightly into the room. Ignoring the plate with a big ham which had a bite out of it, and the Cezanne on the wall, heavily shadowed, he was both tense and casual at the same time. With his big, black gun drawn from his brown leather holster, with his right hand, as it was on his right hip, it was like heavy and stuff, he listened for anything unusual, anything out of the ordinary, anything at all that he might hear...his boots rested casually on that rug, oh, so soft and expensive.

The moon, hovering far above the silken landscape below, cast its cool and uninviting light across the floor through the windows Elmer Toboggan had purchased at the quaint old glazier and doughnut shop in the village three days before, and what a tale that was to tell.

John's eyes were savage. He had forgotten why he came in here in the first place!


Okay, what is my point? Simply this: the first example is what I call 'plot-based' writing style and the other is clearly descriptive. Okay, so I hammed it up a bit.

I began reading a historical romance novel this one time, and it took eight pages to get three horsemen from the top of a hill to the bottom of the hill, another three pages to get to the village, and five pages to get to the door of the inn.

Right about there is where I simply quit reading.

The first sentence of Marcel Proust's 'In A Budding Grove,' is 125 words long. It goes something like this:

My mother, when it was a question of our having M. de Norpois to dinner for the first time, having expressed her regret that Professor Cottard was away from home, and that she herself had quite ceased to see anything of Swann, since either of these might have helped to entertain the old Ambassador, my father replied that so eminent a guest, so distinguished a man of science as Cottard could never be out of place at a dinner-table, but that Swann, with his ostentation, his habit of crying aloud from the housetops the name of everyone that he knew, however slightly, was an impossible vulgarian whom the Marquis de Norpois would be sure to dismiss as—to use his own epithet—a ‘pestilent’ fellow...

I was looking at the page count in my reader. It said '847 pages,' and I can proudly claim to have read the first eight or ten of them.

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