Writers: describe an alligator

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I am never surprised by the power of Anne Rivers Siddons. She weaves words in a way that only a handful of lushly visual southern novelists can.  Pat Conroy can.  Some of the south’s young contemporary writers do it too.

But Siddons has a special affinity for helping readers experience the joy of language. She builds searing images with such elegance that the impact comes as an aftershock.

Take this description of an alligator.

The narrator of her novel Low Country passes through Alligator Alley in a canoe on a creek on a South Carolina barrier island, unnerved as she has been since childhood by the predatory reptiles.  She knows alligators seldom attack humans, do not go after things larger than themselves and have poor peripheral vision.

“Still, they make the hair on my nape and arms rise and something deep within me goes into an ancient and feral crouch.  They are simply such sinister, implacable things, knobbed and armored like dragons out of nightmares, seemingly formed of mud and stone and obsidian and malachite, the color of stagnant water, the color of muddy death.”

Pat Conroy has said Siddons “has never written a sentence that did not have music in it.”  The alligator description is such a great example and a powerful lesson in how to write.

Photo: Creative Commons, Dawn on Flickr

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