Friday, January 31, 2014

THE GLINT ON BROKEN GLASS

     Anton Chekhov (not the guy from "Star Trek," but the renowned doctor-author-playwright) deeply enriched the old adage "Show, don't tell" with these awesome words:

 "Don't tell me the moon is shining, 
show me the glint of light on broken glass."


I reserve the adjective "awesome" to describe things that take my breath away, and that description of "showing" writing certainly awes me with its poetic prose. An image instantly appears like a photograph in my mind. A memorable image.



     This got me thinking about other memorable images that form a Pinterest-page-like collage in my mind, images that also color the way I write my own prose. I started looking through books I've read recently on my Kindle, specifically at the notes I appended with each reading. Here are a few indelible images I'd like to share with you now, to inspire your emulation in poetic prose. A heightened awareness of poetry leads to a deepened development of imagery.


  • "It was the nicest thing she could imagine. It made her want to have his babies and give him both of her kidneys." --from Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell; these lines show the depth of her appreciation, joy, and love through her desire to return his kindness by literally giving him a piece of herself.
  • "…they were all experts in the blank-face department. They should find some family poker tournament…." --also from Eleanor and Park; this line makes me laugh and envision this disinterested-looking family around a game table, giving away nothing that they are thinking.
  • "The shelves were so very much taller than he could even dream of being, and Oscar firmly believed people shouldn't go any higher than they already were."--from The Real Boy, by Anne Ursu; what a visual way to show Oscar's sense of smallness, literally and figuratively, and his sense of the inevitable hierarchy of his world.
  • "He didn't say that with a sneer. Edilio didn't own a sneer." --from Gone, by Michael Grant; a character description that sums up the innate kindness of Edilio, who has no sneer in his wardrobe of expressions. 
  • "It used to be a perfectly ordinary day, but now it sticks up on the calendar like a rusty nail." --from The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt; I can see this image and imagine that nail on a number of significant dates in my own life. 
  • "The streets were ruptured veins. Blood streamed till it was dried on the road, and the bodies were stuck there, like driftwood after the flood."--from The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak; the city becomes one with the bodies, and the people, as driftwood, blend with the destruction. The filmmakers had images to work with when they designed the sets from Zusak's descriptions.
  • "I try to smile, but my lips seem to snap back down like tight rubber bands. They do that a lot lately."--from Just Act Normal, by S. L. Lipson (yes, I'm sneaking in my own work now); this is my depiction of depression's weight upon a teenager.


I added that last example from my own work to show that I find inspiration in the poetic prose of other authors--rather than to tell you that. This blog is meant to show.