Windswept and tussocky

The next snippet of the passage expands on the first but, again, uses details to give you a feeling of the place more than anything else. The snippet ends with its name, like it’s the least important thing about the description.

A wild strip it is, windswept and tussocky, with the flat shallow water of the South Australian Coorong on one side and the endless slam of the Southern Ocean on the other. They call it the Ninety Mile Beach.

Storm Boy(1963)

Imagine if the only description the writer gave was that ‘Storm Boy lived at Ninety Mile Beach’? It wouldn’t tell you too much!

If you complete all of the lessons in our Storm Boy course, you’ll notice that Colin Thiele loves to use a two-word pattern to add flavour to his descriptions. It gives his story an almost fairytale feel. 

Other examples you’ll see in these lessons include:

  • Tumble and thunder
  • Darts and writhes
  • Supple and hardy
  • Rippled and flapped
  • Gargling and gurgling
  • Lashed and tore
  • Bent and broke
  • Shivering and exhausted
  • Shrieking and raging

Thiele expands on the two surrounding landmarks in the previous snippet, with juxtaposing details: flat shallow water vs the endless slam of the Southern Ocean.

You can choose whether to expand on the surrounding landmarks you’ve already set up, or introduce new elements, but definitely emphasise the contrasting details.

Notice how Thiele says “A wild strip it is.”

Why doesn’t he say, “It is a wild stip”?

There’s something epic and ancient about putting the verb at the end of the sentence, and Thiele is trying to create this epic and timeless feel in his description (as with the way he uses the instead of a).

You can experiment with verb placement too if you like.

You might notice that in this snippet, Thiele has switched from past tense (“Storm Boy lived… His home was…”) to present tense (“A wild strip it is… They call it…”). Why would he do this?

Again, it’s that timeless feel: Storm Boy may have come and gone, but the place is timeless. It is now and always will be. 

You can try using present tense instead of past tense and see if you like the effect.

See how the same patterns are used in these examples to convey the feeling of each place.

‘Bypass’ was a good name to call the place, avoided and forgotten, surrounded by old, broken buildings and an angry freeway of people desperately trying to be somewhere else. But people didn’t call it anything. They barely noticed it.

A patchwork place it is, elegant and wild, with refined streets and manicured parks broken by eruptions of dark swamp, industrial rail and wind-blasted bay. The sign on the way into town says Sandgate.

Write your own variation.