A Perfect Short Description

As you might know, Terry Pratchett passed away recently. I had read a few of his books many years ago and, although I liked them, I didn’t read any more of them since. When he died, I had the urge, like many others, to read all of his books. And I say many others because it was impossible to find any of his early books in the book store, or even the first book of any of the series within Discworld.

What decided me to try again was that, when I read them at first, my English wasn’t nearly as fluent as it is now. The experience of Discworld might have been lost on me because of it.

So, I ordered a couple of them online.

The first one I received was Mort, which is the first book of the DEATH Series. One of the very successful things that Pratchett does here, is the smart use of formatting to set apart Death’s manner of speaking. Several characters in the series explain how Death doesn’t quite speak as much as he transmit his speech directly into their brains. And to do that, Pratchett writes his lines in small caps and no quotation marks.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. As I am reading the first pages of Mort, a description of Death’s house help has come up and, to me, it is extremely well done. Not that Pratchett is the only one to achieve this, of course. Most professional authors and good writers can do this easily, but these few lines stroke me as a great example.

2015-04-01 11.46.02 (1)

Pratchett, 1987, p.27

With four adjectives, we get a pretty clear picture of what the man looks like. We don’t know what colour his hair is, or his eyes, or if he has big ears and a crooked mouth, or if he has all his teeth. Yet, we can see him quite clearly, even if my image of him is completely different from yours.

My point is, recognizing it might be the first step to achieving it. Here is hoping!


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