In critiquing a friend’s manuscript, I told her she needed texture in her writing. She asked me to explain. So I sent her this. I thought it might be of a more general interest to everyone.
Texture means simply that your characters are set in their world. Here are three ways of writing the same scene. The first has not texture and is simply bare-boned. We have no idea where or when these folks are living. The second and third have texture, and see how differently the writer can make things seem.
Margat moved toward him and held out her hand. “I am pleased to meet you.”
When he took her hand, it was a limp shake, as if she’d offered him a dishrag. But his smile was
Margat moved toward him, across the cobbled courtyard, the hem of her gown making the sound of falling leaves where it passed across the stone. When she reached him, she held out her hand. “I am pleased to meet you.”
When he took her hand, it was a limp shake, as if she’d offered him a dishrag. His silk sleeve never moved or trembled the way other young men did when she was near. But his smile was dazzling even though it never reached his eyes. They were looking past her, at the duchess, as if he had to wait for permission to greet Margat, or even take her proferred hand.
“Margat moved toward him, across the cattleyard, and held out her hand. The wind was so a-wail, she could hardly move at her usual pace. It was as if she had to swim through the air to reach him. “I am pleased to meet you.” She tried to give him a hearty shake, the way her Pa would have done. A tumble weed fetched up by the back of his boots, though he didn’t seem to notice.
When he took her hand, it was a limp shake, as if she’d offered him a dishrag off a dirty sink. But his smile was dazzling.
For all his clothes–he stetson and the muddy boots, the kerchief and the rest–he knew him for a cheat. Papa always said, the handshake tells all.