Descriptive and Vivid Language

Walter Mosley

Lesson time 08:45 min

Good writing comes alive in the reader’s mind. Walter teaches you how to use imagery, metaphors, similes, and more to create a vivid world.

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Topics include: Your Novel Comes to Life With Pedestrian Details · Metaphors and Similes · Give a Feeling With Your Details


[MUSIC PLAYING] - People living an everyday life, it's just an everyday-- it's the regular thing. I got up. I put on my pants one leg at a time and went out to the car, started the car. I drove it down the street. You don't want any accidents. You don't want to run over any children on their tricycles. You don't want the police to stop you and pull a gun on you and maybe shoot you for no reason. You just want to put on your pants, get in your car, drive to work. But when you're reading a novel, you really want to understand the jeopardy that every person is in when they're in a novel and in that story. And vivid language helps us become a part of that story. It brings us into the story. The beginning of "Moby Dick" is, "Call me Ishmael." Now you could have just as well written, "His name was Ishmael." But that doesn't do very much. When he says, "Call me Ishmael," he's talking to you. He's saying, come on. I'm walking down the street. It's raining, it's cold. And I'm tired of being on land. I want to get out on the sea again. I want to get on a boat. I want to get on a whaling ship. That's powerful. And it really makes you, you know, want to follow him and see what's going to happen. Because you're used to putting on, you know, one pant leg at a time, going to work, and doing your job, you know, at the book keeping shop. You know, you don't like what you're doing. But when you read this novel, it's going to help you transform yourself into another world. And so the language in novels, not all of it, but vivid language helps you to really experience what's happening. [MUSIC PLAYING] I talk to so many people, and I say, wow, I love that piece. It was so pedestrian. And they get mad at me. They say, I'm not pedestrian. I'm important. I'm special. I'm royal. And I say, well, yeah, maybe so, but if you want me to believe that, first, you gotta be pedestrian, you know. Pedestrian in fiction means that you're seeing characters that do things that you do. They cook some rice. They lit a cigarette. They got some bad news, and they had a drink. This is stuff that we all know about. We all do. Once you have introduced a character in a world that has a pedestrian cast to it, then you can start to build on that to bigger, much more wild things. So this is hopefully a good example of using the pedestrian in a novel. And again, I'm going to read from "Devil in a Blue Dress." "At 4:00 in the morning, the neighborhoods of Los Angeles are asleep. On Dinka Street, there wasn't even a dog out prowling the trash. The dark lawns were quiet, dotted now and then with hushed white flowers that barely shone in the lamplight. The French girl's address was a one-story duplex. The porch light shone on her half of the porch. I stayed in my car long enough to light up a cigarette. The house looked peaceful enough. There was a fat palm tree in the front yard. The lawn was surrounded by an ornamental white picket fence. There were no bodies lying ...

About the Instructor

Walter Mosley, bestselling author and recipient of the National Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement Medal, has written more than 60 books over his 30-year career and is celebrated for fiction that addresses our culture’s racial divides. Now he’s sharing the elements of storytelling that have helped him along the way. Learn how to choose the right words, structure, genre, and characters to create the novel that’s in you.

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Walter Mosley

In his MasterClass, Walter Mosley teaches you how to rethink genres and the “rules” of fiction and how to approach writing your own novel.

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