Texture

Jan. 9th, 2005 10:53 am
lullenny: (eats)
[personal profile] lullenny
I love comparing writing to food. Oh the brain-twinkies I have consumed!

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The following is an excerpt from Part III of the book Making Shapely Fiction, by Jerome Stern. The first two parts are very much worth reading as well. The book is available in paperback.



Texture

Texture is an aspect of style. It's created by such qualities as vocabulary choice, density of detail, complexity of imagery, and entry into the characters' minds.

Some writing is so densely textured that readers experience enormous amounts of information simultaneously on a number of different levels. Ishmael Reed starts Mumbo-Jumbo:
A True Sport, the Mayor of New Orleans, spiffy in his patent-leather brown and white shoes, his plaid suit, the Rudolph Valentino parted-down-the-middle hair style, sits in his office. Sprawled upon his knees is Zuzu, local doo-wack-a-doo and the voo-do-dee-odo figzig. A slatternly floozy, her green, sequined dress quivers.
Other writing is stripped bare, as if to tell only one thing very simply. Barry Hannah begins Ray:
Ray is thirty-three and he was born of decent religious parents, I say.
The possibilities are analogous to different styles of cooking -- on the one hand we have complex dishes in which many sensations play against each other and, on the other, dishes that are so simple and natural that one pure flavor creates an experience.

One texture is not better than the other -- the house of fiction has room for Thomas Pynchon's baroque layering and Raymond Carver's bareness. But you have to take care. Over-textured prose tries to do too much, crowds in so many sensations that ass is blurred and effects are lost. Under-textured prose is just bland -- the writer has omitted so much that there is no savor, nothing fresh or pungent to it. If texture vacillates, it feels as if the author can't decide what he's cooking.

What's important to remember is that the dish should be admired, not the cook. You don't want someone to say, "You are very clever," instead of, "This is delicious."

See Diction, Motif, Style.

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