Saturday, November 3, 2012

Painting a Picture with Words Like Author Natalie Babbitt in "Tuck Everlasting"

I recently read the classic novel, Tuck Everlasting, for the very first time, and I was struck not only by the storyline, but by author Natalie Babbitt’s style of writing. For example, take a look at the following passage ~ the first paragraph of the Prologue ~ in which she sets the scene for the time at which the story begins:

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.

~from the Prologue of Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt

Can’t you just picture the scene on a hot August day? The author could have started out with “It was the first week of August,” and then launched right into her story. But she really makes you FEEL like you’ve been dropped into a still and steamy August day. In other words, this is a beautiful example of the “show, don’t tell” advice given to new writers. And I love how she sets the tone and piques the reader's curiosity in the last line. You just know that the characters are going to get into some sort of mischief!

Now, I have to admit that when I read the above passage to my husband, who’s not really a reader (he’s an accountant; he prefers numbers over words), he said, “Too flowery. I’d rather she just told us it was August and left it at that.” I don’t agree. This paragraph really put a picture in my mind.

What do you think? Do you like how Natalie Babbitt set the scene and tone for the book with the opening paragraph? Or do you think it’s too flowery?



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