Can you identify these four short excerpts? Each is found in the opening paragraph of a popular book.
“He was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a very large mustache. Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck…”
“His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right; when he stood or walked, the back of his hand was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh.”
“He wore a short jacket of brown corduroy, newer than the remainder of his suit, which was a fustian waist coat with white horn buttons, breeches of the same, tanned leggings and a straw hat overlaid with black glazed canvas.”
“Squinting at his surroundings he saw a plush Renaissance bedroom with Louis XVI furniture, hand-frescoed walls, and a colossal mahogany four-poster bed.”
Can you name each book? Actually, it doesn’t matter. As it happens the excerpts are from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Mayor of Casterbridge and The Da Vinci Code. But I wasn’t really trying to give you a short quiz on 20th century popular fiction.
In fact, I wanted you to notice how important visual descriptions are in most books. Later in those four books, we discover how Professor Dumbledore looks and we find out how Atticus Finch, Michael Henchard and Robert Langdon look and dress. This is how most books are written. Such descriptions help the reader imagine the scenes and get to know the characters.