Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Description

I like to read.  I think most of you know this.  I recently finished reading Sherlock Holmes (collection) by Arthur Conan Doyle.  What impresses me most about these authors of the long - gone era, including Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, and you know the kind of author I mean, is their incredible ability to describe their characters.  I refer you, as I did in this post, to Wilkie Collins' description of one of his characters:  "Some of us rush through life; and some of us saunter through life.  Mrs. Vesey sat through life. ... A mild, a compliant, an unutterably tranquil and harmless old lady, who never by any chance suggested the idea that she had been actually alive since the hour of her birth."

Nowadays, it seems that when an author wants to describe their character it goes something like this: "She looked at him, and she saw him. He had brown hair, and chocolate eyes.  He was hot. So hot she trembled."  (Not a paragraph from an actual book... but I've read similar statements.)

Now, is it just me or do you feel much more connected to Ms. Vesey, even if all she does is sit through life, than to this random hot guy with chocolate eyes? I mean, who is he? Why do we care about him? Just because he made her tremble with his smoldering good looks?

And so as I read these descriptions of characters I can never help myself but wonder how they would describe me if I were to be a character in one of their books.  If I were to be a side character in a Jane Austen, what would she have said about me? If I were coming to Sherlock Holmes for help in solving, say, the case of the cut finger, how would Sir Arthur describe me as I came in through the door of Baker Street?  I have no illusions that it would be entirely complimentary, if at all.  These authors sought for honest, real characters and they weren't afraid to show their faults and weaknesses.  And so, I present to you my attempts at making myself into a character in a novel.

"It was evident from her haphazard, staggered manner of breathing that her body had long ago forgotten how to inhale and exhale in a normal, repeatable pattern.  Her body clearly suffered from frequent attacks of anxiety.  Based on her outward dress and overall appearance the cause seemed to be a gaping chasm between the organization of lifestyle she craved, and the actual chaos within which she lived."

Or perhaps, this one:
"She had a comic air about her, in a tragic sort of way.  The details of her appearance suggested a deep disconnect between her mind and her body.  The disappointment evident in the lines of her features provided evidence that the factions were at war, and her body was not the victor.  Her limbs seemed to move of their own accord, as though the body were desperately trying to be engaged in doing something productive, an effort which was stymied by the disordered contents of her brain that demanded she do nothing, nothing at all."

I hope you know that I write these as representations of myself as I am right now.  And perhaps as I am in just the first trimester, too.


  1. Amy, I love you. And I love Ms. Vessey too.

    Bright Side: you're not just sitting through life.

    Also, you're not on fire.

  2. Have you read much Dickens? His character descriptions are brilliant. I particularly love those in Our Mutual Friend. I'm reading Bleak House right now, and they are excellent as well.

  3. I wish that right now I could write a glowing description of meeting you in a book but my brain's all stymied too. I'll work on it.

  4. I think you have gotten past your "mommy brain!" Those are thought-provoking, descriptions of how you are feeling!

  5. as a person who has not always loved reading anything that was more than two sentences... (you know), I would have to say that i am definitely more involved in a character when she/he is described like Ms. Vessey, but i just cannot read books like that. i get bored so easily. I get lost and my attention wanders. but i appreciate the effort and talent of those authors...from a distance so to speak. lol

  6. Wilkie Collins is so awesome.

    And so are you. I wish I had a literary description.

  7. I just want you know that since reading this post I've been trying to think of how I would describe myself in a book! It's been very challenging to not make it sound like a eulogy and more like a character. Thanks for the "food for thought", it's been a fun process!

  8. Oh, my dear, beautiful sister, you are much to hard on yourself. While you may feel like an utter mess, disconnected mind from body, I hope that when you are not pregnant, that your description of yourself is kinder. Although I can relate to how you're feeling now, I have to say that when I read your paragraph of Amy, I didn't visualize the you I am familiar with... And, just so you know, I'm not even pregnant and my brain feels just as flat as yours. =P
    After a long, exhausting trip into the city, we all returned to our train station around 1pm. I was SO exhausted from hiking all around NYC with a VERY heavy stroller (never taking that one to the city again), that putting one foot in front of the other seemed utterly impossible. As be began to near the car, which was much farther away that I recalled, I almost cried as I realized I had NO idea where I had placed the keys early that morning when we arrived at the train station. (We were running late and barely made the train!) After 10 minutes or so and many pouts, I finally asked Peter if he had a set of keys in his backpack. He did. He'd completely forgotten. So we ended up being able to pack us back in and get home before 2am, and JUST before heading up to bed I opened up a pocket in the diaper bag and there sat my keys. All along. NOW I remember putting them there! =)
    So you're not alone.
    Love ya!

  9. Your self portrait might be accurate.

    Regardless whether said brain and body are disjointed, that same mind and hand are creating some beautiful prose.

    I enjoy your descriptions as much as any of those composed by the masters.

    Did I use prose correctly?

  10. You are so talented at writing! I am always laughing and thinking while reading what you write, usually at the same time. And... I think it's amazing how big the chasm can be between what you feel you present and what the other person actually sees in you! I'd never describe you that way.