WAYRN: Miss Dartle, Uriah Heep and the Rest

My What Are You Reading Nows have become irregular but oh well. I’ve got several writing projects going as I dip my toes in the world of epublishing. (More on that later.) I’m re-reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. What a great writer. Here’s a sample, in his description of Miss Dartle:

There was a second lady in the dining-room, of a slight short figure, dark, and not agreeable to look at, but with some appearance of good looks too, who attracted my attention: perhaps because I had not expected to see her: perhaps because I found myself sitting opposite to her: perhaps because of something really remarkable in her. She had black hair and eager black eyes, and was thin, and had a scar upon her lip. It was an old scar–I should rather call it, seam, for it was not discoulered, and had healed years ago–which had once cut through her mouth, downward towards the chin, but was now barely visible across the table, except above and on her upper lip, the shape of which had altered. I concluded in my own mind that she was about thirty years of age, and that she wished to be married. She was a little dilapidated–like a house–with having been so long to let; yet had, as I have said, an appearance of good looks. Her thinness seemed to be the effect of some wasting fire within her, which found vent in her gaunt eyes.

There’s more art in that paragraph than in most contemporary books. And that was just the introduction to her character. He goes on to give her one of his funny characters ticks–she has a habit of feigning ignorance and naivete as she drives her points home.

In my novel, I have a woman with a scar and as I read this I compared my introduction to my character with Dickens’ introduction to Miss Dartle and needless to say, I found my work wanting. Miss Dartle, Uriah Heep and the rest of Dickens’ David Copperfield creations remind me where I’d like to be as a writer, and remind me I have a long way to go. Part of me wonders if a work such as David Copperfield is even possible today, considering modern distractions and the decreased modern emphasis on writing. Writers have so many advantages over Dickens in terms of computers and the ease of editing. But do writers today have the fundamental skills?