Thoughts on the texture, colour and music in writing.
The internet is replete with advice on story structure—on turning points, character arcs, symbolism, and the like. Certainly, those structures are essential to the craft of accomplished writing. But there is another aspect that is not as often discussed. This is at the layer of language—the choice of words, their texture, their sound and colour.
The quality of language is what we encounter first; in a novel, it may first manifest in a single sentence or paragraph. The point is that if we are attracted to the language we are more likely to keep on reading.
Consider the textures, colours and music rendered in the examples below:
I heard the sonic rip of a military jet, like a giant trowel being dragged through wet concrete, but saw only blue above, a raw and saturated blue that seemed cut from an inner wedge of sky. ~ Rachel Kushner
“Memorable language has its own particular texture, colour and music. Once experienced, it tends to stay with you forever.”
Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish. ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez
But in another city, another valley, another ghetto, another slum, another favela, another township, another intifada, another war, another birth, somebody is singing Redemption Song, as if the Singer wrote it for no other reason but for this sufferah to sing, shout, whisper, weep, bawl, and scream right here, right now. ~Marlon James
Over the city lies the sweet, rotting odor of yesterday’s unrecollected sin. ~Hilary Mantel
And if I might be so bold as to include a passage from one of my own novels:
It’s an hour’s walk back home from O’Hara’s along the beach. I carry my notebook in my pocket and my slip slops in my hand. My bare feet squelch into the warm, wet cocktail of sand and shell fragments. Bubbles swell up between my toes, pop off then reappear like baby universes born out of the void by the pulse of quantum fluctuation.
~Stavros Halvatzis, The Nostalgia of Time Travel.
There are countless examples of textured writing; you will know them when you see them. Some will become permanent fixtures in your memory to be recited out aloud just to hear them. Do so whenever you feel your enthusiasm in your writing sag.
Exercise: What are some of your most beloved fragments of writing? List them in a journal. Read them out aloud to yourself, noting their colour, texture and music whenever you need a jab of inspiration.
Learn to use the texture, colour and music of language. Together with a deep knowledge of character and story structure it is the path to accomplished writing.