Taking Notes: Christopher Priest 談小說中的「描寫」

BSFA 的會員除了評論誌 Vector 外,另外還可以獲得 Matrix 新聞誌和 Focus 創作誌兩本刊物。Focus 大多時候會刊登會員的短篇創作,不過偶爾也會有創作技巧上的討論與傳授專文。本篇就是名作家 Christopher Priest 在 Focus 上的 MASTERCLASS 系列專文之四,談的是小說中「描寫」(description)的技巧。


Christopher Priest, 'Masterclass No. 4: Description', in Focus (53), winter 2008, pp. 9-12.

p. 9:
首先 Priest 以俄裔作家 Ivan Bunin 的 'Calling Cards' 為例,說明好的「描寫」能帶給讀者多少資訊,接著闡述「描寫」其實還是有得談的:
  Descriptive text is of course at the heart of all narrative fiction, and so much an ordinary part of what a writer does that it might seem hardly worth commenting upon. Perhaps one would think that a descriptive ability is so bound up in the whole business of writing fiction that it is a skill indistinguishable from the rest.
  Even so, we know there is good descriptive writing and bad, so the usual literary elements of heart, eye and technique must all be involved.

  Description in fiction is all about observation. The author observes some place, thing, event, acition, character, etc., relevant to the story. By describing it the writer invites the reader to observe imaginatively what is happening. I suppose you could say that the ideal descriptive passage would therefore be one in which the writer manages to convey exactly the intended image. In
p. 10
effect, writer and reader would then 'see' the image in an identical way. If the reader doesn't 'see', or misunderstands, then the description must in some way be deficient.
  The true observer of whatever it is that's being described is in fact neither the writer nor the reader, but either a character in the story or the viewpoint the author has chosen. In both cases, the nature of the observer is itself an influence on what is seen, and governs the selection that is made.〔視角(人物)的選定會影響到被觀察的內容。〕
  Description does not just set a scene or depict action. It also tells you something about the choice the writer has made, the viewpoint that is being used, and from there fre actual selection of images then becomes much more subtle. The scene is set. The reader finds out something necessary about what's going on or where it is. The character (or the viewpoint) becomes enhanced.
  That's when it's done properly.
接下來,Priest 提到可以師法其他藝術形式,如:攝影、繪畫等。特别是色彩的調整和運用:
p. 12
  Normal colour is fine. It's natural, expectable, unremarkable. Go on using it. But try a similar experiment in descriptive writing: make less to be more, use colour sparingly to emphasize it and make it stand out, try to find exact synonyms for shades, pastels, tints. ......

Steve Weddle 談如何讓人物變得更「真實」:
  ...... The voice of the character is imbued in the details, which come from the care that the writers take in developing their personalities. They feel true to us, because they are wholly realised. And their truth is based, oddly enough, on the lies that the writer tells.
  Writing fiction is lying. By exaggerating, by manipulating details to fit a wider story, writers seek to illuminate character for the reader. These lies are told for entertainment, but also to reveal truth -- not actual, provable historic truth, but the more dangerous concept of dramatic truth. (p. 5)
Steven Weddle, 'The Lies We Tell to See the Truth', in Focus (53), winter 2008, pp. 4-5.

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