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Description is the pattern of narrative development that aims to make vivid a place, an object, a character, or a group.[1] Description is one of four rhetorical modes (also known as modes of discourse), along with exposition, argumentation, and narration.[2] In practice it would be difficult to write literature that drew on just one of the four basic modes.[3]

As a fiction-writing mode[edit]

Fiction-writing also has modes: action, exposition, description, dialogue, summary, and transition.[4] Author Peter Selgin refers to methods, including action, dialogue, thoughts, summary, scenes, and description.[5] Currently, there is no consensus within the writing community regarding the number and composition of fiction-writing modes and their uses.

Description is the fiction-writing mode for transmitting a mental image of the particulars of a story. Together with dialogue, narration, exposition, and summarization, description is one of the most widely recognized of the fiction-writing modes. As stated in Writing from A to Z, edited by Kirk Polking, description is more than the amassing of details; it is bringing something to life by carefully choosing and arranging words and phrases to produce the desired effect.[6] The most appropriate and effective techniques for presenting description are a matter of ongoing discussion among writers and writing coaches.

Purple prose[edit]

A purple patch is an over-written passage in which the writer has strained too hard to achieve an impressive effect, by elaborate figures or other means. The phrase (Latin: "purpureus pannus") was first used by the Roman poet Horace in his Ars Poetica (c. 20 BC) to denote an irrelevant and excessively ornate passage; the sense of irrelevance is normally absent in modern usage, although such passages are usually incongruous. By extension, purple prose is lavishly figurative, rhythmic, or otherwise overwrought.[7]

Philosophy[edit]

In philosophy, the nature of description has been an important question since Bertrand Russell's classical texts.[8]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Crews (1977, p. 13)
  2. ^ Crews (1977, p. 13)
  3. ^ Crews (1977, p. 16)
  4. ^ Morrell (2006), p. 127
  5. ^ Selgin (2007), p. 38
  6. ^ Polking (1990), p. 106
  7. ^ Baldick (2004)
  8. ^ Ludlow, Peter (2007), Descriptions, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 

References[edit]

  • Baldick, Chris (2004), The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-860883-7 
  • Crews, Frederick (1977), The Random House Handbook (2nd ed.), New York: Random House, ISBN 0-394-31211-2 
  • Marshall, Evan (1998). The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. pp. 143–165. ISBN 1-58297-062-9. 
  • Morrell, Jessica Page (2006). Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. p. 127. ISBN 978-1-58297-393-7. 
  • Polking, Kirk (1990). Writing A to Z. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 0-89879-435-8. 
  • Rozakis, Laurie (2003). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style, 2nd Edition. Alpha. ISBN 978-1-59257-115-4
  • Selgin, Peter (2007). By Cunning & Craft: Sound Advice and Practical Wisdom for fiction writers. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-58297-491-0. 

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