Welcome the fourth installment of my guest blogger, Tony Cappasso. He is the author of a self-published travel narrative, America’s Highway: A Journal of Discovery Along US Route.
Here’s a bit of writing advice you’ve no doubt seen: Read all the time, read everything.
I’ve always been skeptical about advice that is so absolute. But this bit has really worked for me.
Writing is description. It is putting words together to create an image, a sensation, an emotion, in the reader.
It’s what I love the most about reading the works of other writers. It is what I find the most difficult to do in my own writing.
All my experience is in non-fiction. I wrote for newspapers, newsletters, magazines, and the web. All the topics I covered, all the subjects I wrote about were real. No making things up allowed.
It’s tough to be flowery when you’re describing a surgical procedure or a mass immunization.
But I like brilliant, descriptive writing; that is, I like reading it. I’d love doing it, too, but it has never been my forte. Oddly, it doesn’t come naturally to me in my writing although it does in my speaking. But I’ve gotten better.
Before setting out on my trip from Maine to Florida on US Route 1, I reread three of my favorite travel writers. Paul Theroux (Kingdom by the Sea), Bill Bryson (Notes from a Small Island), and William Least Heat Moon (Blue Highways).
All three are masters of description.
This is Theroux describing trains: “It was man’s best machine traversing earth’s best feature — the train tracking in the narrow angle between vertical rock and horizontal water.”
Or William Least Heat Moon from his book Blue Highways: “With a nearly desperate sense of isolation and a growing suspicion that I lived in an alien land, I took to the road in search of places where change did not mean ruin and where time and men and deeds connected.”
Here’s Bill Bryson musing about tourism: “What an odd thing tourism is. You fly off to a strange land, eagerly abandoning all the comforts of home, and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile attempt to recapture the comforts that you wouldn’t have lost if you hadn’t left home in the first place.”
I try to imitate them; to learn from them.
I look for inspiration in description. I carry a notebook and a pen to jot down observations about persons or places, and practice sharpening my skills at describing what I see and hear, taste and smell, so my readers can also.
What about you? Is it easy for you to write description? Which of your favorite authors do you think write great description?