by Kimn Swenson Gollnick
I keep a notebook where I write down prose enjoyed during my reading time . . . and now, you can enjoy excerpts from my current college readings. Here I share interesting characterizations, including the use of metaphor. PLEASE NOTE: I don't necessarily endorse all of these books, but found these excerpts strong in what they teach me about the technical aspects of writing about characters. See if you agree, and why you think these might be effective.
"He wore rough clothes that smacked of the sea, and he was manifestly out of place in the spacious hall in which he found himself. He did not know what to do with his cap, and was stuffing it into his coat pocket when the other took it from him. The act was done quietly and naturally, and the awkward young fellow appreciated it. ...The wide room seemed too narrow for his rolling gait, and to himself he was in terror lest his broad shoulders should collide with the doorways or sweep the bric-a-brac from the low mantel. He recoiled from side to side between the various objects and mulitplied the hazards that in reality lodged only in his mind. Between a grand piano and a center-table piled high with books was space for a half dozen to walk abreast, yet he essayed it with trepidation. His heavy arms hung loosely at his sides. He did not know what to do with those arms and hands, and when, to his excited vision, one arm seemed liable to brush against the books on the table, he lurched away like a frightened horse, barely missing the piano stools." -- Martin Eden by Jack London (c.1909, reprinted 1993, Viking Penguin), p.31.
"She walked with a limp, not an ordinary limp, but a limp which made her rock like a ship at anchor. When she put the full weight of her large, crooked, bony frame on her good leg, she seemed to be gathering herself up to crest some monstrous wave and then, suddenly plummeting as though about to disappear into a trough, she would sink into the ground. When she walked, she pitched and rolled and made you think of a ship in a storm. With each step she took, her head, on which she always wore a huge white mob-cap which trailed ribbons down her back, seemed to sweep the horizon, from north to south and south to north." -- "Clochette" by Guy de Maupassant, translated by David Coward published in The Story and Its Writer edited by Ann Charters (c.2003, Bedford/St. Martin's), p.973.
"A man came in with Anna Sergeevna and sat down next to her, a young man with little side-whiskers, very tall, stooping; he nodded his head at every step, and it seemed he was perpetually bowing." -- "The Lady with the Little Dog" by Anton Chekhov, published in The Story and Its Writer edited by Ann Charters (c.2003, Bedford/St. Martin's), p.307.
"At dinner he couldn't decide whether [his daughter] Honoria was most like him or her mother [who'd died three years earlier]. Fortunate if she didn't combine the traits of both that had brought them to disaster. A great wave of protectiveness went over him. He thought he knew what to do for her. He believed in character; he wanted to jump back a whole generation and trust in character again as the eternally valuable element. Everything else wore out." -- "Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in The Story and Its Writer edited by Ann Charters (c.2003, Bedford/St. Martin's), p.508.
"They held the funeral on the second day, with the town coming to look at Miss Emily beneath a mass of bought flowers, with the crayon face of her father musing profoundly above the brier and the ladies sibilant and macabre; and the very old men--some in their brushed Confederate uniforms--on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road, but instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottleneck of the most recent decade of years." -- "Roses for Emily" by William Faulkner, published in The Story and Its Writer edited by Ann Charters (c.2003, Bedford/St. Martin's), p.490.
"I am not ashamed of my grandparents for having been slaves. I am only ashamed of myself for having at one time been ashamed." -- "Battle Royal" by Ralph Ellison, published in The Story and Its Writer edited by Ann Charters (c.2003, Bedford/St. Martin's), p.464.
" . . . in the beginning, I was just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so. I pictured this prodigy side of my as many different images, trying each one on for size. I was a dainty ballerina girl standing by the curtains, waiting to hear the right music that would send me floating on my tiptoes. I was like the Christ child lifted out of the straw manger, crying with holy indignity. I was Cinderella stepping from her pumpkin carriage with sparkly cartoon music filling the air." -- "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan, published in The Story and Its Writer edited by Ann Charters (c.2003, Bedford/St. Martin's), p.1278.
"Paul entered the faculty room suave and smiling. His clothes were a trifle outgrown, and the tan velvet on the collar of his open overcoat was frayed and worn; but for all that there was something of a dandy about him, and he wore an opal pin in his neatly knotted black four-in-hand, and a red carnation in his buttonhole. This latter adornment the faculty somehow felt was not properly significant of the contrite spirit befitting a boy under the ban of suspension." -- "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p. 79.
"The soloist chanced to be a German woman . . . she wore a satin gown and a tiara, and she had that indefinable air of achievement, that world-shine upon her, which always blinded Paul to any possible defects." -- "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p. 81.
"'I want some poison,' she said to the druggist. [Emily] was over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eye sockets as you imagine a lighthouse-keeper's face ought to look." -- "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p. 79.
" . . . he would have asked where they were going, but not now. His father had struck him before last night but never before had he paused afterward to explain why; it was as if the blow and the following calm, outrageous voice still rang, repercussed, divulging nothing to him save the terrible handicap of being young, the light weight of his few years, just heavy enough to prevent his soaring free of the world as it seemed to be ordered but not heavy enough to keep him footed solid in it, to resist it and try to change the course of its events." -- "Barn Burning" by William Faulkner, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p.221.
"Now he could hear his father's stiff foot as it came down on the boards with clocklike finality, a sound out of all proportion to the displacement of the body it bore and which was not dwarfed either by the white door before it, as though it had attained to a sort of vicious and ravening minimum not to be dwarfed by anything--the flat, wide, black hat, the formal coat of broadcloth which had once been black but which had now that friction-glazed greenish cast of the bodies of old house flies, the lifted sleeve which was too large, the lifted hand like a curled claw." -- "Barn Burning" by William Faulkner, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p.222.
"[Charlie's daughter Honoria] drew him into the salon, where the family waited, a boy and a girl his daughter's age, his sister-in-law and her husband. He greeted Marion with his voice pitched carefully to avoid either feigned enthusiasm or dislike, but her response was more frankly tepid . . . ." -- "Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p.233.
"At dinner [Charlie] couldn't decide whether Honoria was most like him or her mother. Fortunate if she didn't combine the traits of both that had brought them to disaster. A great wave of protectiveness went over him. He thought he knew what to do for her. He believed in character; he wanted to jump back a whole generation and trust in character again as the eternally valuable element. Everything else wore out." -- "Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p.234.
NOTE: After sudden ghosts from the past appear, old friends Lorraine and Duncan, Charlie recognizes how shallow they are and what a poor influence they were on him. He dodges their requests to get together, focusing instead on his daughter, and he comes to an epiphany:] "Somehow, an unwelcome encounter. They liked him because he was functioning, because they wanted to draw a certain sustenance from his strength." -- "Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p.237.
"At the Empire, Honoria proudly refused to sit upon her father's folded coat. She was already an individual with a code of her own, and Charlie was more and more absorbed by the desire of putting a little of himself into her [as her father] before she crystallized utterly." -- "Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p.237.
"Marion shuddered suddenly; part of her saw that Charlie's feet were planted on the earth now, and her own maternal feeling recognized the naturalness of his desire [to regain custody of his daughter]; but she had lived for a long time with a prejudice--a prejudice founded on a curious disbelief in her sister's happiness, which, in the shock of one terrible night [when her sister died of heart disease], had turned to hatred for him. It had all happened at a point in her life where the discouragement of ill health and adverse circumstances made it necessary for her to believe in tangible villainy and a tangible victim. 'I can't help what I think!' she cried out suddenly." -- "Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p.240.
Store manager Lengle comes into his A&P and sees three girls shopping in bathing suits. "He comes over and says, 'Girls, this isn't the beach.' Queenie blushes, though maybe it's just a brush of sunburn I was noticing for the first time, now that she was so close. 'My mother asked me to pick up a jar of herring snacks.' 'That's all right,' Lengel said. 'But this isn't the beach.' His repeating this struck me as funny, as if it had just occurred to him, and he had been thinking all these years the A&P was a great big dune and he was the head lifeguard." -- "A & P" by John Updike, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p.384.
"[Julian's mother] lived according to the laws of her own fantasy world, outside of which he had never seen her set foot." -- "Everything That Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p.340.
"The further irony of all this was that in spite of her, [Julian] had turned out so well. In spite of going to only a third-rate college, he had, on his own initiative, come out with a first-rate education; in spite of growing up dominated by a small mind, he had ended up with a large one; in spite of all [his mother's] foolish views, he was free of prejudice and unafraid to face facts. Most miraculous of all, instead of being blinded by love for her as she was for him, he had cut himself emotionally free of her and could see her with complete objectivity. He was not dominated by his mother." -- "Everything That Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor, eFictions (c.2004, Heinle & Heinle Publishing Co.), p.340.
"The receptionist is a kind-looking middle-aged woman with very deep wrinkles from years of tanning; she is deeply tanned now, in March in Chicago." -- National Bestseller The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger (c.2003, Harcourt Inc.), p. 311.
"Dr. Kendrick is a geneticist, and not incidentally, a philosopher; the latter, I think, must be of some use in coping with the harsh practical realities of the former." -- National Bestseller The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger (c.2003, Harcourt Inc.), p. 311.
"An old woman stood before [Eddie] in the snow. Her face was gaunt, with sagging cheeks, rose-colored lipstick, and tightly pulled-back white hair, thin enough in parts to reveal the pink scalp beneath it. She wore wire-rimmed spectacles over narrow blue eyes." --The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom (c.2003, Hyperion), p. 110.
"Violet Baudelaire, the eldest, liked to skip rocks. Like most fourteen-year-olds, she was right-handed, so the rocks skipped farther across the murky water when Violet used her right hand than when she used her left. As she skipped rocks, she was looking out at the horizon and thinking about an invention she wanted to build. Anyone who knew Violet well could tell she was thinking hard, because her long hair was tied up in ribbon to keep it out of her eyes. Violet had a real knack for inventing and building strange devices, so her brain was often filled with images of pulleys, levers, and gears, and she never wanted to be distracted by something as trivial as her hair. This morning she was thinking about how to construct a device that could retrieve a rock after you had skipped it into the ocean." --The Bad Beginning: Book 1 "A Series of Unfortunate Events", Lemony Snicket (c.1999, HarperCollinsPublishers), p. 3.
"Klaus Baudelaire, the middle child, and the only boy, liked to examine creatures in tide-pools. Klaus was a little older than twelve and wore glasses, which made him look intelligent. He was intelligent. The Baudelaire parents had an enormous library in their mansion, a room filled with thousands of books on nearly every subject. Being only twelve, Klaus of course had not read all of the books in the Baudelaire library, but he had read a great many of them and retained a lot of information from his readings. He knew how to tell an alligator from a crocodile. He knew who killed Julius Caesar. And he knew much about the tiny, slimy animals found at Briny Beach, which he was examining now." --The Bad Beginning: Book 1 "A Series of Unfortunate Events", Lemony Snicket (c.1999, HarperCollinsPublishers), p. 4.
"Sunny Baudelaire, the youngest, liked to bite things. She was an infant, and very small for her age, scarcely larger than a boot. ...Sunny was at an age where one mostly speaks in a series of unintelligible shrieks. Except when she used the few actual words in her vocabulary, like 'bottle,' 'mommy,' and 'bite,' most people had trouble understanding what it was that Sunny was saying. For instance, this morning she was saying 'Gack!' over and over, which probably meant, 'Look at that mysterious figure emerging from the fog!'" --The Bad Beginning: Book 1 "A Series of Unfortunate Events", Lemony Snicket (c.1999, HarperCollinsPublishers), p. 4.
"[Count Olaf] was very tall and very thin, dressed in a gray suit that had many dark stains on it. His face was unshaven, and rather than two eyebrows, like most human beings have, he had just one long one. His eyes were very, very shiny, which made him look both hungry and angry." --The Bad Beginning: Book 1 "A Series of Unfortunate Events", Lemony Snicket (c.1999, HarperCollinsPublishers), p. 22.
"Maggie O'Connor Mackenzie was a heavy, dumpy woman, her body the shape of a pudding bag tied in the middle. One shawl was wrapped around the shapeless figure, and a smaller one, over her head, was knotted under her fat chin. Strands of heavy black hair showed around the edges of the head shawl, and the face enclosed in its folds was round and smooth, fat and placid. Only her dark Irish eyes, the color of blue-black waters at Kilkee, and a dimple in the middle of her rolling chin, gave a touch of reality to the old romance of the peasant girl." --A Lantern in Her Hand, Bess Streeter Aldrich (a native Iowan!) (c.1928, Scholastic Book Services; reprinted 1997 by Puffin Books), p. 17-18.
"And then a big, powerful man came out, a man with only one arm, his left sleeve pinned to the side of his coat. He had a shock of wiry black hair, and an equally wiry beard which gave him an unkempt look. But his eyes were blue and twinkling and kind; they held the calmness of blue ice, but not its coldness." --A Lantern in Her Hand, Bess Streeter Aldrich (a native Iowan!) (c.1928, Scholastic Book Services; reprinted 1997 by Puffin Books), p. 25.
"To the other settlers, Grandpa Deal seemed as substantial as the native hickory timber in whose clearing he had build his house." --A Lantern in Her Hand, Bess Streeter Aldrich (a native Iowan!) (c.1928, Scholastic Book Services; reprinted 1997 by Puffin Books), p. 26.
"Sarah, the bride, was a pretty girl. Her hair was crow black, her cheeks pink as prairie roses, her little black beady eyes had merry wrinkles of laughter around them. Life seemed a joke to her." --A Lantern in Her Hand, Bess Streeter Aldrich (a native Iowan!) (c.1928, Scholastic Book Services; reprinted 1997 by Puffin Books), p. 17-18.
"Professionally, Vic was poised to deliver on all he owed to Tommy Dawson. Over the past eight years, Tommy had not only kept Vic employed, but he had somehow transferred to Vic much of his cunning and business acumen. To thee skills, Vic had contributed his own considerable raw talent and charm. By 1941, Tommy was sixty-two and ready to work and worry a little less. Vic was senior vice president in name but already shouldering the duties of president. And he had big plans for Dawson Insurance. ...But life never seems to follow the expected path...." -- Once Upon a Gulf Coast Summer, Susan Oliver (c.2004, Broadman & Holman), p. 40.
"The woman in my kitchen smiled at this one-sided introduction, made as if she were a zoo animal or a new building Vic was dedicating. The knowing glint in her eye clashed curiously with the hole she flashed on one side of her rickety smile--an unexpected, tooth-framed window to the pink of her tongue." -- Once Upon a Gulf Coast Summer, Susan Oliver (c.2004, Broadman & Holman), p. 70.
"Vic ducked into the kitchen and asked if Clay was home. 'He should be in shortly,' I answered, feeling like I was tipping off the spider to the arrival of the fly." -- Once Upon a Gulf Coast Summer, Susan Oliver (c.2004, Broadman & Holman), p. 79.
"He was tall and thin and hard, and he moved like the grass itself, without effort, gracefully. His silver-gray hair hung well below his ears and always nearly looked disheveled, as if he had just come in from a long sea voyage through a stiff wind and had tried to brush it into place with his hands. His narrow face, high cheekbones, and hair falling over his forehead set off light blue eyes that seemed never to stop looking for the next photograph." -- The Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller (c.1992, Warner Books), p. 24-25.
"Francesca said nothing, wondering about a man to whom the difference between a pasture and a meadow seemed important, who got excited about sky color, who wrote a little poetry but not much fiction. Who played the guitar, who earned his living by images and carried his tools in his knapsacks. Who seemed like the wind. And moved like it. Came from it, perhaps." -- The Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller (c.1992, Warner Books), p. 59.
"He wasn't handsome, not in any conventional sense. Nor was he homely. Those words didn't seem to apply to him. But there was something, something about him. Something very old, something slightly battered by the years, not in his appearance, but in his eyes.
On his left wrist was a complicated-looking watch with a brown, sweat-stained leather band. A silver bracelet with some intricate scrollwork clung to his right wrist. It needed a good rubbing with silver polish, she thought, then chastised herself for being caught up in the trivia of small-town life she had silently rebelled against through the years." -- The Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller (c.1992, Warner Books), p. 32.
"As they came into the circle inscribed on grass and gravel by the yard light, she answered, 'Of course,' hearing the sound of something in her voice that worried her. It was the sound of easy laughter in the cafes of Naples." -- The Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller (c.1992, Warner Books), p. 61.
"At nineteen, Dick was well filled out and deeply tanned from outdoor exercise. Powerful shoulders bespoke successful years on the Grand Mound High School swimming and football teams. His sandy hair was the kind that wouldn't stay brushed. His shoes, though, were carefully polished, and his brown suit, a little shiny from long use, was well pressed." -- Dangerous Deadline, Mildred Benson (c.1957, Tab Books), p. 2.
"[Dick's mother] was a tall woman, too thin, and too busy to remodel the faded housedress which hung a size too large for her wiry frame. Tiny worry wrinkles radiated from the corners of her deep blue eyes. Good cheer, however, was an eternal possession, and she now gave her son a warm, welcoming smile." -- Dangerous Deadline, Mildred Benson (c.1957, Tab Books), p. 15.
"Mickey Shea was standing behind Eddie. His hair was the color of French vanilla ice cream, wet with sweat, and his face was red from whatever he'd been drinking." -- The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom (c.2003, Hyperion), p. 59.
"[Seth] looked over at Samuel Harland's table and saw the man shaking his head. The girls had formed a line in front of Baaron and were definitely looking more Las Vegas than Lawrence Welk." --Blink, Ted Dekker (c.2002, W Publishing Group), p. 93.
"In the summer of 1936 [Red Pollard] was twenty-six and in the twelfth year of a failing career as a jockey and part-time prize-fighter. He was an elegant young man, tautly muscled, with a shock of supernaturally orange hair. Whenever he got near a mirror, he wetted down a comb and slicked the hair back like Tyrone Power, but it had a way of rearing up on him again. His face had a downward-sliding quality, as if his features were just beginning to melt." --Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand (c.2001, Random House), p. 59.
"Somewhere along the way, Pollard crossed paths with a jockey agent named Yummy, a round, toad-eyed, linty man, built low. Yummy had a pronounced harelip that slurred his speech badly. He raised his voice to a pounding level to compensate, but this only made people cringe. He kept his cash in his shoe and lived year-round in the Turkish baths of whatever city he happened through. Like Pollard, he seemed to have lost the need to belong to any place in particular." --Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand (c.2001, Random House), p. 111.
"Samuel Riddle bore a startling resemblance to the illustrated figure on a Monopoly board. He had all the appurtenances--the black hat, the white moustache, heaps of old eastern money. Everything but the smile." --Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand (c.2001, Random House), p. 169.
"Lin Howard was in one of those moods during which crazy ideas sound perfectly sensible. A bullish, handsome man with decisive eyebrows and more hair than he could find use for, Lin had a great deal of money and a habit of having things go his way." --Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand (c.2001, Random House), p. 283.
"Sleeping was [Seabiscuit's] favorite pastime. Horses usually sleep in numerous brief sessions scattered throughout the day and night; about 20 percent of their daytime is spent snoozing. Because of the size and configuration of their bodies, they suffer impeded breathing and circulation when recumbent, and as prey animals who have trouble getting to their feet quickly, they are instinctively disinclined to stay down. As a result, the vast majority of horses' sleeping is done standing, which they can do thanks to ligaments that lock their leg joints in the extended position. The average stabled horse spends just five minutes at a time lying down to sleep, almost always at night.
Seabiscuit was the exception. He could keel over and snooze for hours on end. His inability to straighten his knees all the way may have been the culprit, preventing him from locking his forelegs in the upright position. Fortunately, he suffered no negative consequences. While every other horse at the track raised hell demanding breakfast, he slept long and late, stretching out over the floor of his stall in such deep sedation that the grooms had to use every means in their power just to get him to stand up. ...No one had ever seen a horse so relaxed. Fitzsimmons would remember him as a 'big dog,' the most easygoing horse he ever trained. The only thing Seabiscuit took seriously, aside from his beauty rest, was eating, which he did constantly, with great vigor." --Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand (c.2001, Random House), p. 45-46.
"'Dad!' Valkerie spun in the direction of the moat. Her father stood across from her, blowing a cloud of steam through his hands." --Christy Award winner, Oxygen, John B. Olson and Randall Ingermanson (c.2001, Bethany House), p. 110.
"Mr. Pedanski was younger than Mr. Sir, and not nearly as scary looking. The top of his head was shaved so close it was almost bald, but his face was covered in a thick curly black beard. His nose was badly sunburned." -- Holes, Louis Sachar (Newbery Award Book, c.1998, Random House/Dell), p. 16.
"Henry the Lesser was the shortest of the squires. He was as skinny as a rake handle, with long brown hair and big ears that stuck out like clamshells. He was called Henry the Lesser to distinguish him from another squire named Henry who was sixty pounds heavier and a head taller." -- Timebenders: Doorway to Doom, Jim Denney (c.2002, Tommy Nelson), p. 79.
"Pappy drove thirty-seven miles per hour. His theory was that every automobile had a speed at which it ran most efficiently, and through some vaguely defined method he had determined that his old truck should go thirty-seven. My mother said (to me) that it was ridiculous. She also said he and my father had once fought over whether the truck should go faster. But my father rarely drove it, and if I happened to be riding with him, he would level off at thirty-seven, out of respect for Pappy. My mother said she suspected he drove much faster when he was alone." --A Painted House, John Grisham (c.2001, Dell Books), p. 2.
Stanley meets the Camp Warden: "A tall woman with red hair stepped out of the passenger side. She looked even taller than she was, since Stanley was down in his hole. She wore a black cowboy hat and black cowboy boots which were studded with turquoise stones. The sleeves on her shirt were rolled up, and her arms were covered with freckles, as was her face. She walked right up to X-Ray." -- Holes, Louis Sachar (Newbery Award Book, c.1998, Random House/Dell), p. 66.
"Madame Zeroni had dark skin and a very wide mouth. When she looked at you, her eyes seemed to expand, and you felt like she was looking right through you." -- Holes, Louis Sachar (Newbery Award Book, c.1998, Random House/Dell), p. 29.
"On the right, at the Jordan place, we saw a group of Mexicans working in the field near the road. They were stooped at the waist, their cotton sacks draped behind them, their hands moving deftly through the stalks, tearing off the bolls. Pappy grunted. He didn't like the Jordans because they were Methodists--and Cubs fans. Now that they already had workers in their fields, there was another reason to dislike them." --A Painted House, John Grisham (c.2001, Dell Books), p. 3.
Imagine how a Northerner's speech would sound to a young Southern boy from Arkansas: "...Jimmy Dale introduced his new wife, a thin little thing who looked younger than Tally. Her name was Stacy. She was from Michigan, and when she spoke her words came through her nose. She clipped them quickly and efficiently, and within seconds she made my skin crawl." --A Painted House, John Grisham (c.2001, Dell Books), p. 243.
"Exactly why Dudley wanted a racing bike was a mystery to Harry, as Dudley was very fat and hated exercise--unless of course it involved punching somebody. Dudley's favorite punching bag was Harry, but he couldn't often catch him. Harry didn't look it, but he was very fast." --Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling (c.1997, Scholastic Press), p.20
(A girl, Hermione, addresses Harry and his new friend Ron. Here's how the author introduces her to the two boys:) "'Has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost one.' She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth." --Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling (c.1997, Scholastic Press), p.105
"Chess was the only thing Hermione ever lost at, something Harry and Ron thought was very good for her." --Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling (c.1997, Scholastic Press), p.217
"Mrs. Strickland...had a way of picking up odd scraps of information, the way birds pick up bright bits of cord or yarn." -- The Mystery Book Mystery, Wylly Folk St.John (c.1976, Viking Press), p.125
"[Elaine Westover had a] slow, smooth voice. It was a voice like raw silk, smooth but with now and then a small irregularity, like a heavier thread or slub in the silk, to catch the attention." -- The Mystery Book Mystery, Wylly Folk St.John (c.1976, Viking Press), p.192
"...Pammie and I had an English teacher our sophomore year whom we loved, a large long-haired woman named Sue who wore purple almost exclusively and was a friendly hippie sort." -- Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott (c.1999, Pantheon Books), p.18
"I can remember exactly how he smelled--of chamois shirts, beer, cigarettes. He smelled like a tall male, and of hiking, and of books and blue jeans." -- Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott (c.1999, Pantheon Books), p.122
"Charlie came out thirty seconds after Susan went back. A small, wiry man with black hair and a gold-capped tooth in front, he shook [Dynah's] hand." -- The Atonement Child, Francine Rivers (c.1997, Tyndale), p.238
"Dynah found herself studying Joe as he turned his attention to the musicians. Odd how a man's appearance could be deceiving. This gentle, caring man looked street tough with his hair growing past his shirt collar.... His earlobe was pierced, and on his hand he had a small tattoo of a cross with a diamond in it. She had asked him about it once, and he said the diamond was for a robbery he had committed. When he became a Christian, he had the cross tattooed over it." -- The Atonement Child, Francine Rivers (c.1997, Tyndale), p.337
"Abraham stepped in, a small hyper man of about forty who had public interest stamped all over him. Jewish, dark beard, horn-rimmed glasses, rumpled blazer, wrinkled khakis, dirty sneakers, and the weighty aura of one trying to save the world." -- The Street Lawyer, John Grisham (reprint edition c.1999, Dell Island Books), p.48
"A pale gentleman with badly dyed black hair and a clammy handshake appeared and introduced himself as Bill. He wore a blue lab jacket and shoes with thick rubber soles. Where do they find people to work in a morgue?" -- The Street Lawyer, John Grisham (reprint edition c.1999, Dell Island Books), p.112
"He looked at her. She was pretty still, with thick hair and soft eyes, and she moved so gracefully that it almost seemed as though she were gliding. He'd seen beautiful women before, though, women who caught his eye, but to his mind they usually lacked the traits he found most desirable. Traits like intelligence, confidence, strength of spirit, passion, traits that inspired others to greatness, traits that he aspired to himself." -- The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks (New York Times Bestseller, c.1996, Warner Books), p.42-43
"Everyone knew that Sadie Baxter would come down the hill in her 1958 Plymouth in a heartbeat--no matter what the weather. Ice, however, was a different story. 'You can't predict it,' she'd say, 'and I dearly love the predictable.' So, on icy days, she read, played the piano, sorted through the family picture albums, or called Louella, her former maid and companion, who now lived with her grandson in Marietta, Georgia."-- At Home in Mitford, Jan Karon (New York Times Bestseller, c.1994, Penguin Books), p.28
"Tom flipped another page on his notepad and began to sketch a diagram of the crime scene. He was a tall, lanky man in his mid-thirties, with a narrow face, alert green eyes, a long nose, and short, dark brown hair shaved a little closer around the sides of his head, a little longer on top." -- The Strand: A Novel, Ellen Vaughn (c.1997, Word Books), p. 29
"If you're going to be a pain in the neck, it helps to be a beautiful one--though, of course, the opposite is true, too. From very personal experience, Neely knew that if you're not beautiful you'd better not be a nuisance--not if you know what's good for you."-- The Trespassers, Zilpha Keatley Snyder (c.1995), p.11
"Snape finished calling the names and looked up at the class. His eyes were black like Hagrid's, but they had none of Hagrid's warmth. They were cold and empty and made you think of dark tunnels." --Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling (c.1997, Scholastic Press), p.136
"[Mr. Dursley] hurried to his car and set off for home, hoping he was imagining things, which he had never hoped before, because he didn't approve of imagination." --Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling (c.1997, Scholastic Press), p.5
"The homeless are close to the streets, to the pavement, the curbs and gutters, the concrete, the litter, the sewer lids and fire hydrants and wastebaskets and bus stops and store-fronts. They move slowly over familiar terrain, day after day, stopping to talk to each other because time means little, stopping to watch a stalled car in traffic, a new drug dealer on a corner, a strange face on their turf. They sit on their sidewalks hidden under hats and caps and behind drugstore sunshades, and like sentries they observe every movement. They hear the sounds of the street, they absorb the odors of diesel from city buses and fried grease from cheap diners. The same cab passes twice in an hour, and they know it. A gun is fired in the distance, and they know where it came from. A fine auto with Virginia or Maryland plates is parked at the curb, they'll watch it until it leaves.
A cop with no uniform waits in a car with no markings, and they see it."
-- The Street Lawyer, John Grisham (reprint edition c.1999, Dell Island Books), p.298-299
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