Appreciate the Master Writers

G. K. Chesterton

By Annette Rey

Who hasn’t heard of The Invisible Man (created by H. G. Wells)? He’s right up there with The Mummy, Dracula, and Frankenstein. He’s part of all the old, original “spook movies”. They existed long before the genre of Horror Movies and Slash Movies, blood for blood’s sake. But we often forget, our original “monsters” were first born in written stories.

I say all of this to introduce you to G. K. Chesterton, who wrote a short Father Brown story he titled The Invisible Man. It’s a strange tale about a type of invisibility and worth reading to examine the writing style. When you can learn to write like he did, Wow!, you’ll be up there with the masters.

Read this marvelous first paragraph from The Invisible Man and learn how to enrapture readers!

* In the cool blue twilight of two steep streets in Camden Town, the shop at the corner, a confectioner’s, glowed like the butt of a cigar. One should rather say, perhaps, like the butt of a firework, for the light was of many colours and some complexity, broken up by many mirrors and dancing on many gilt and gaily-coloured cakes and sweetmeats. Against this one fiery glass were glued the noses of many gutter-snipes, for the chocolates were all wrapped in those red and gold and green metallic colours which are almost better than chocolate itself; and the huge white wedding-cake in the window was somehow at once remote and satisfying, just as if the whole North Pole were good to eat. Such rainbow provocations could naturally collect the youth of the neighborhood up to the ages of ten or twelve. But this corner was also attractive to youth at a later stage; and a young man, not less than twenty-four, was staring into the same shop window. To him, also, the shop was of fiery charm, but this attraction was not wholly to be explained by chocolates; which, however, he was far from despising. *

Can you write such a gripping paragraph about the contents of a confectioner’s window? Reading this, I was drawn into the scene. I felt like one of the glitter-eyed, light-hearted, salivating children, dreaming peppermint cane dreams, forgetting life’s sorrows, absorbed in the mood, drinking in the flashing colors, and filled with the awe of it all.

Yes, really. I experienced all of those things. That’s what great writing does to the reader. That’s what you want to do for your readers.

Try. Try. Pick a moment in time, an object that seems of no interest, a table setting, a bus speeding by – take that one thing, write a paragraph about it – make it deeply exciting, tie in colors and scents and feelings and sounds – you get the idea. Use unique points of view – like light bouncing from the point of view of the silverware into the femme fatale’s velvet eyes across the table from you. Use words that evoke the picture you are trying to convey. Like G. K. did. Here I reprint the paragraph and italicize the phrases that captured me.

* In the cool blue twilight of two steep streets in Camden Town, the shop at the corner, a confectioner’s, glowed like the butt of a cigar. One should rather say, perhaps, like the butt of a firework, for the light was of many colours and some complexity, broken up by many mirrors and dancing on many gilt and gaily-coloured cakes and sweetmeats. Against this one fiery glass were glued the noses of many gutter-snipes, for the chocolates were all wrapped in those red and gold and green metallic colours which are almost better than chocolate itself; and the huge white wedding-cake in the window was somehow at once remote and satisfying, just as if the whole North Pole were good to eat. Such rainbow provocations could naturally collect the youth of the neighborhood up to the ages of ten or twelve. But this corner was also attractive to youth at a later stage; and a young man, not less than twenty-four, was staring into the same shop window. To him, also, the shop was of fiery charm, but this attraction was not wholly to be explained by chocolates; which, however, he was far from despising. *

Try this as an exercise. Follow each sentence if it helps you to construct your own enticing paragraph. You will be extending your repertoire, and will surprise yourself with what you accomplish.

(And take some time to read the old masters.)

Happy writing!

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