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The Colour of Leaves

The Colour of Leaves

The Colour of Leaves

There are many styles of writing and just as many types of readers who have stylistic preferences. I can be argued that the most successful writers match the most common preferences and one of these I think of as ‘describing the colour of leaves’.

It is the language of the Eighteenth Century poets, but in prose. It was held up to us as the epitome of good writing when I was in school and it put me off English literature for decades

You will have your own opinion and that is how it should be, but, honestly, I don’t need to buy a book to tell me what colour leaves are or the grass is, and unless it is germane to the story, I don’t really want to know anyway. The monitor lizard in the photo above is more important than the leaves to me.

I buy a book for the story, not because the author is good at writing descriptions of leaves or other bits of scenery. To me, anything but a basic description of the surroundings of the protagonists is paddling.

I am a writer now, the last profession I guessed for myself after English literature at school, and I prefer to write that the girl was lying on the grass near a leafy bush to provide shade for her face, than to go into any further detail about the flora. To me, it is more important why she is there, what she is thinking and what is going to happen next, than the colour of the leaves.

However, it seems to me that a lot of the people in ‘literary management’ still peddle the descriptive writer more than the story teller.

It could be a class thing. I suspect that it is. Agents are publishers tend to be middle-class and so tend towards the classical style of a story padded out with long descriptions.

I have met lots of readers who skip over these verbose, often boring descriptions of common things.

Describing the colour or leaves is to stunt the reader’s imagination at best, and insulting at worst.

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All the best,

Owen

Podcast: The Colour of Leaves