Texture

Dictionary.com defines Texture as:

The characteristic structure of the interwoven or intertwined threads, strands, or the like, that make up a textile fabric: the characteristic physical structure given to a material, an object, etc., by the size, shape, arrangement, and proportions of its parts: an essential or characteristic quality; essence.

The definition goes on to imply that texture only applies in the visual or tactile arts. Pottery, painting, fabric, even movies and stage plays can all have texture. Print media is notable for its absence of mention.

REALLY? I think not! Yesterday Pamela shared some lines from Daphne DuMaurier’s Jamaica Inn to demonstrate texture on the page. It was the juxtaposition of light and dark, the weather, the mist. The texture that DuMaurier brought to her story drew the reader in. We were right there on the Cornish coast feeling the bite of the wind, the lashing of the mist.

Writers have a responsibility to bring their scenes to life in a visual way. Our characters have to make the leap from the single dimension of the page to the three-D high definition imagination of the reader. The only way that can happen is to create scenes so real, so vibrant, that the reader becomes a part of the story. Not for nothing do readers talk about “getting lost in a book.” They don’t mean they lost their place, they mean they lost themselves.

The blending of colors, contrasts, emotions, smells, touch, all contribute to the texture of a book. The skillful writer takes all these parts and weaves them together, wrapping the tale around the reader, ensnaring her in the story.

What books have you read that leapt off the page?

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Author: kaitcarson

I write mysteries set in South Florida. The Hayden Kent series is set in the Florida Keys. Hayden is a SCUBA diving paralegal who keeps finding bodies. Underwater, no one can hear you scream! Catherine Swope is a Miami Realtor with a penchant for finding bodies in the darndest places. I live in an airpark in Fort Denaud, FL with my husband, six cats and three birds. And oh yes, a Piper Cherokee 6 in the hangar!

12 thoughts on “Texture”

  1. Great post! Love this line: “The skillful writer takes all these parts and weaves them together, wrapping the tale around the reader, ensnaring her in the story.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did this for me, in some of the Holmes stories. Early J.D. Robb. Piers Anthony. Ellery Adams. Julia Spencer-Fleming! She’s just wonderful.

  2. It’s a tricky thing – enough detail to ensare, but not so much you overwhelm. I’m reading a book now set in 16th century Japan – The Ninja’s Daughter, by Susan Spann. I absolutely would not have thought this book would take me in, but she has a wonderful talent for making me see and feel the setting and characters.

  3. I’m reading Lori Rader-Day’s ‘Little Pretty Things’ right now and she’s woven in high school senses and a ratty old motel that makes me think I’m (re)visiting both.

  4. Harry Potter comes to mind first–JK Rowling is amazing. When you read her books, you feel like you’re actually Hogwarts. These texture posts are really making me think. I already want to start revising my last manuscript with this in mind.

  5. Maggie Stiefvater does texture really well. She’s amazing with how she sets scenes so that everything feels 4D.

  6. As an amateur artist, I think about how to use paint to convey texture. As a writer, we have words to do the same. Sometimes it feels very limiting.

    I recently read Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh book set in Malaysia (long title, and it’s not sitting in front of me), and anyway, the texture in that book was brilliant, sinking me right into the place, looking over the shoulders of the characters, who felt so real.

  7. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. While the movie was good, it didn’t come close to the book. And Arthur Golden, to my knowledge, hasn’t written anything else.

    A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.

    Great post!

  8. For me, descriptions of scenery (which I skim) are not the only way to layer in texture. Tami Hoag brings scenes to life through the interactions of her characters, who could not be more real if they were sitting on my lap.
    On the other hand, I just read Poison Makers by Jimmy Olsen (not the cub reporter), which takes place in Santa Domingo, Haiti, and the US East Coast. He writes beautifully evocative scenes that take you there.

  9. Great post, Kait! I’ve never thought about texture in relation to writing/reading until this month’s theme, and I loved hearing your thoughts on it. I’m going to echo Sam and say Harry Potter–JK Rowling is such an evocative writer. Even her Cormoran Strike series leaps off the page!

  10. @Pamela, thank you, and I hope you don’t mind that I riffed on Jamaica Inn. Your quoted scene yesterday sparked every wonderful moment of that book in vivid detail. DuMaurier was a master (mistress? – nah, sounds bad)

    @Mary, yes, back in the days when I worked in the performing arts a friend summed it up after Phantom of the Opera, he said, “The play was pretty good, but I’m humming the sets.” {Precisely what you don’t want…the sets to take precedence over the plot. But then, it could have been partly the fault of our seats, we ended up being right under the falling chandelier!

    @Becky, what a great compliment to pay her!

    @Sam, I may be the last person on earth to read Harry Potter! Haven’t done it yet but all I’ve heard is over the top spectacular. I’m thinking the same thing about my WIP, I know what I’m doing after I finish my first draft.

    @Kimberly, WOW, I’ll have to check her out.

    @Sue, I’ll have to check those out. Now that you mention it, books about India do convey more texture. I’m thinking MM Kaye and EM Foster. I wonder if it’s the local that is so inspiring.

    @Keenan, high five!

    @Peg, Ya Ya, I loved that book, you are so right. I haven’t read Geisha. Now I’ll have to look it up.

    @Sheila, you are so right. texture is a package deal, and interactions between characters are so important and need to be as nuanced and layered as they are in real life.

  11. @Kate – it is funny that we all consider it a visual thing, but when we talk about our writing and being in the zone, we ‘re usually mentioning that it’s like watching a movie in our head. I’m loving this theme so far. Can’t wait to see where else it goes.

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