The storm had passed
but the wind was still howling ferociously.
This drawing isn’t in Miss Missy’s School. I think it’s wonderful, but Caroline decided she wanted to do watercolor paintings for the illustrations instead. This one just didn’t fit in.
Have you ever thought about being a writer or an artist? I don’t know very much about art but I imagine it’s a fascinating subject. There must be a lot of similarity between how artists and writers get people to feel a particular emotion, or imagine a scene.
Look closely at the drawing on the left, especially the wall which is made of rough cypress panels. Though Caroline changed the color for artistic effect, this is what they really look like. Notice how every plank of wood is unique. You can see the grain of the wood, and even a couple of knotholes.
Now take a look through the windows of the front door. “The wind was howling ferociously.” See the wind howling and blowing? It’s so strong that it looks like it knocked one of the fence rails down!
How does the whole drawing make you feel? I feel safe and warm inside such a sturdy home with Missy and Rocky! But I wonder if they are just a little bit scared to go outside. We know they do, because that’s when they find the “poor scrawny little foxhound” and her pup, Little Tommy. But it still looks frightening out there.
What is it about the drawing that makes you feel the way you do?
For me it’s the details. For you it may be something else. But I wouldn’t feel the way I do if, for example, Caroline had drawn plain old off-white colored walls and a few leaves blowing around. And I wouldn’t feel the same if she’d added too much more detail, either. (For example, if she’d cluttered the scene with furniture.)
Another detail affects me. The focal point of the drawing– what we’re paying most attention to– is the outside scene in the middle. It’s almost all in black & white and other “cool” colors. But inside, it’s reddish and brown and other “warm” colors. That contrast contributes to my feeling safe inside.
Artists’ use lines, shapes, colors, textures, and such to set a mood or convey a message– to paint a scene which evokes an emotion. What do writers use to do this? Words. Words and punctuation marks are all they have. But just like artists, writers need to give readers just enough details so they can feel and imagine what the writer has in mind.
How do writers use words to “paint” a detailed scene? This is the first paragraph from Fifteen Rabbits by Felix Salten (1930).
“Where are my brothers and sisters?” The little rabbit, who was sitting beside his mother under the fern fronds, suddenly asked the question.
He was no bigger than a lump of earth from the forest loam. He looked like a ball of wool, but he seemed almost as soft as the softest down, almost as light as air. He was quite
covered with a misty-gray color of that fine mixture we call pepper and salt. He was as insubstantial, and at the same time as wonderful, as the first pale shimmer of the early morning that was just breaking. On this brow was a white star, the emblem of his childhood.
Don’t you just want to cup the little rabbit in your hands and snuggle him against your cheek?
How did this writer make you want to do that just by using words?
Please share your thoughts in the comments!