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Thursday, 25 April 2013

For Week Four

Week Four’s Work:  Natural Surroundings

Write a passage in which the description of something ‘outside’ creates sets a mood.

“One bird chirped high up;  there was a pause;  another chirped lower down.  The sun sharpened the walls of the house, and rested like the tip of a fan upon a white blind and made a blue finger-print of shadow under the leaf by the bedroom window.  The blind stirred slightly, but all within was dim and unsubstantial.  The birds sang their blank melody outside.”
                                                                                                               Virginia Woolf:  The Waves

We get particular chirps.    The sun doesn’t just shine it’s given a role, and the ‘sharpened’ gives
 the idea of something happening,   the first light and its effect.    Then we move from one particular,
 the walls, to another, the blind, and it’s not just a fan, but the tip of a fan that it’s compared to, and
 not just a shadow but a ‘blue finger tip’ of a shadow, and precisely under the leaf,  precisely by the 
bedroom window, leading us towards the dim interior in which the main part of the chapter is to be
 started.   She comes back to the birds and their blank melody, not just a description but an idea, 
how the melody is blank because it’s we the readers, she the writer, in a moment the children in the
 bedroom, who make something of the song, see the sunrise in this human way.

In doing ‘description’ you have to be very wary of overdoing things – particularly the adjectives – 
and of sounding too self-conscious (an ‘I hope you appreciate my description’ tone).   
Also as a rule description has to be in some way functional, that is make some sort of comment 
as well as just making us ‘see’ the thing described.   The description of the sun isn’t just ‘sun’ 
it’s also ‘sunrise coming’.   The discrete two bird calls are not just ‘birds singing’ but ‘first few calls 
indicating sunrise’.    The simile, ‘like the tip of a fan’ is not only a bit of fancy, it fits the childhood 
world we’re going to meet.    The whole passage draws an comparison between the natural sense
 of wonder that children have with the sense of wonder of the writer.  the children really are 
seeing things (almost) for the first time.  The write has the job, in part, of making us see them again in that way.

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