Descriptive writing puts you in the jungle

Monte Reel, writing for The Washington Post, brilliantly described the surroundings as two trackers, Marcelo dos Santos and Altair Algayer, sought contact with a man believed to be the last surviving member of a Brazilian tribe: 

Altair, clutching his rifle with one hand, twisted through a tangle of ferns. It was the peak of the dry season in 1998. They called this a rain forest, but it hadn’t even sprinkled here in 60 days. Insects swirled within the streaming bars of light that penetrated the canopy of jatoba trees. A papery rustle accompanied each footstep as he hiked deeper into the forest.

Look at “it hadn’t even sprinkled here in 60 days.” Lesser writers may have written “They called this a rain forest, but it was bone-dry here” or “but no precipitation had fallen here in two months.”  

How about “Insects swirled within the streaming bars of light”? How vivid is that? Much better than “Altair could see insects in the light that streamed in.” 

“A papery rustle accompanied each footstep” makes you feel right there, doesn’t it? I’m so glad we didn’t read “Leaves crunched with each footfall.” 

Reel knows how to write for reading.

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