All about atmosphere

Feet of Clay is my favourite Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, not only because at its heart it’s a murder mystery (a genre I love) but also because it’s one of those books that draws the reader into the world the author has created so completely that I can almost feel the cobbles of Ankh Morpork underneath my feet. The city becomes a character in its own right, the perfect backdrop to the unfolding mystery plot and Pratchett’s usual incisive moral dilemmas and glorious turn of phrase.

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Where Pratchett really gets it right, I think, is by judicious use of the less is more principle. Rather than endless descriptive paragraphs (which can drop a reader out of a novel very quickly), he uses description sparingly; an adjective here, an adverb there. This lets the reader build up their own mental picture, rather than having everything spelled out to them.

Another aspect Pratchett is excellent at, not only in this novel, is using all five senses to evoke a mood, rather than just telling the reader what the characters can see. Smell and touch, especially, are very powerful, and can convey so much with very few words.

Finally, the weather seems to be under-used in many novels, but here the fog and the rain add to the gritty mystery novel feel, building up the sense of claustrophobia and suspense.

And now I’m going to go and read it again…

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