Describe every character in minute detail, taking no account of narrative pacing


Terrence Handley shifted his weight, the weight that had been steadily increasing for the last ten years and showed no sign of diminishing, at least while his wife Marie continued to excel as she did at the design and production of delectable gourmet meat pies, and shuffled his feet restively as he waited. His feet had always been a source of irritation for him, imbued as they were with a mysterious capacity to ache seemingly independently of circumstances. This had been the case since the age of about ten, when he first noticed that his feet had a reluctance to settle in one position (or he supposed, two positions nearby one another) for any length of time before sending signals up the nerves that ran through his legs informing his brain that, if it was all very well, they’d rather not be set in the aforementioned position for too much longer. At last, the door opened.
‘Package for you,’ he said, thrusting the object into the waiting hands of Alfonso Delany, hands which, over time, had become not only minutely hardened to the rigours of the world in which they worked, but subtly tainted by the chemicals with which Alfonso spent the majority of his days.
’Thank you,’ said Alfonso, his rich chestnut hair (which tended towards a dryness he found frustrating and did his best to remedy by use of a range of expensive poultices) falling across his borderline brown-green eyes, which were only slightly larger than the average eyes of a man of his age and ethnicity.

20 comments:

  1. Very funny. Incredible observation of most garbage written today.

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  2. Delicious blog, Joel. I am particularly into the misuse of technical jargon or foreign words (check www.engrish.com). Have fun.
    Regina

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  3. Ooh I'm a detail person and I thought that was a great description of his weight especially linked to the pies....

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  4. Dan Brown eat your heart out. What would he give to write as badly well as this?

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  5. I am so glad to have found this blog. Great observations!

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  6. Reads like a Kafka novel.

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  7. Definitely leaves less for the imagination, that's for sure...

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  8. This could actually be an interesting style for a short story, if the meandering stream-of-consciousness tangents were eventually drawn together to have some significance. It gives the impression of a very distractable or unstable character/narrator.

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  9. Please forward to Tom Clancy.

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  10. This is Stephen King all the way.

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  11. Apparently I enjoy horrible books....
    Granted I did find the last lines about his hair and eyes to be a little much. Otherwise I rather enjoy this superfluous style of writing.
    One of my favorite authors writes somewhat in this style, but he does it well (and no, it isn't King, Clancy or Brown.)

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  12. is it sad that I actually enjoyed reading that?

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  13. You know, the scary part about this, is that when I started writing fiction, I was guilty of this. Big time.

    I thought I had to account for every second of my character's time! How could I get her into another room (or city) without showing how she got there? Aaack!

    Very funny, Joel.

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  14. Details are great, but I agree it's all about executing within a larger scope.

    For one thing, as is evident in the structure of this sentence in and of itself, too many adverbial clauses and prepositional phrases, especially when they are almost assuredly tangents of the writer's own thoughts and not within the character, will force the reader to scan back to the subject of each 35-word sentence.

    Also, another great problem with this is the impotent modifiers that pad each long-winded sentence. The word "seemingly" is a cheap way for writers to tiptoe between objectivity and subjectivity. Although that style is fascinating to read when well-written (for me, Vonnegut), it's way beyond my level as a writer.

    Found this blog via kottke.org, and I'll definitely be subcribing. Thanks for the many good observations!

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  15. Hrm. I actually liked the first paragraph a lot. For someone standing, holding a package, waiting for the door to be answered, all that detail would be appropriate. The last two descriptive paragraphs? Not so much.

    My first impression, though was that this is more the style of Terry Pratchett; he tries to be so detailed and make every sentence a story unto itself that I can barely get wade through it. (Exept for Good Omens.) Dan Brown writes in unnecessary sentence fragments that so drive me up a wall I couldn't read enough to see if he's florid in his descriptions. Me, I change tenses without knowing better, but then I don't write for my day job.

    Fun site. Keep up the bad work.

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  16. Heh, makes me think of Grampa Simpson.

    "So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time..."

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  17. Hah sorry, I kind of enjoyed reading that. Although I do get your point about a lot of other things in your blog. I shall start using more syllepses. =)

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  18. Bahaha. That reminds me of Salman Rushdie -- taking breaks in the first chapter of Midnight's Children to describe a nose, the context for a partial denial of God, a childhood, and the life history of an old man. And what actually happens during those 14 pages? A doctor prays, goes to see a new patient. But Rushdie does it well.

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  19. I second the rpevious comment. The first paragraph captures the eagerness of the charater. The style speaks to his uneasiness while waiting for the door to open. The second paragraph however, was absolutely painful.

    He's a tad little known outside of his small fanbase, but H. P. Lovecraft is an author I enjoy that also writes in this style. Then again detail heavy writting tends to lend mood to horror/sci-fi fiction. Spend three sentences telling me about the color of the sky and the shape of the moon! Details heavy writting creates the sense of immersion into the story I enjoy as a reader.

    And then there's Carter Brown's detective pulp fiction... :)

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  20. This reminds me a little of some of David Weber's Honorverse books, which sometimes start a chapter with a line or two of dialogue, followed by a page or two of exposition of the history of the situation and motivations of everyone in the galaxy, and then continue the remainder of the conversation. At least he gets it over in one dump, so the conversation runs smoothly once we get back to it, but it can be a bit of a slog.

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