Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In my opinion a true description of nature...

In my opinion a true description of nature should be very brief and have a character of relevance. Commonplace such as "the setting sun bathing in the waves of the darkening sea, poured its purple gold, etc"--"the swallows flying over the surface of the water twittered merrily"--such commonplaces one ought to abandon. In descriptions of nature one ought to seize upon the little particulars, grouping them in such a way that, in reading, when you shut your eyes, you get a picture.

For instance, you will get the full effect of a moonlight night if you write that on the mill-dam a little glowing star-point flashed from the neck of a broken bottle, and the round, black shadow of a dog, or a wolf, emerged and ran, etc. Nature becomes animated if you are not squeamish about employing comparisons of her phenomena with ordinary human activities, etc.

In the sphere of psychology, details are also the thing. God preserve us from commonplaces. Best of all is it to avoid depicting the hero's state of mind; you ought to try to make it clear from the hero's actions. It is not necessary to portray many characters. The center of gravity should be in two persons: him and her.

-- Anton Chekhov (1886), in a letter to Alexander Chekhov



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