Study Guide

The Goose Girl Writing Style

By Shannon Hale

Writing Style

Descriptive and Detailed

If you're wondering what on earth the distinction is between descriptive and detailed, don't worry—we assure you we haven't decided to run amuck with synonyms.

First let's tackle descriptive. In terms of style, descriptive means that the book spends a lot of time telling us about things: how they look and sound, what they resemble—that sort of stuff. Since the animal-speaking, wind-talking world is so foreign to us, it makes sense that the novel spends a lot of time telling us all about it. And descriptive applies to characters too—we hear a lot about what certain characters look like. Check out the description of Ani, when we first meet her:

They listened to her breathing and her hummingbird heart, felt her fierce grip and her tiny fingers soft as salamander skin. All was sound. But her eyes did not open. (1.2)

We learn a lot about Ani here, before she even starts to speak at all. Through just this small description of her birth, we understand that Ani is gentle yet mighty—because of her "fierce grip" and "soft" fingers—and also that she has some resistance to the world, as evidenced by her closed eyes.

Overall, the novel uses descriptions to give us a vivid picture of Ani's world and the people in it—which now brings us to the detailed part of the writing style. Detailed here means that we get tiny tidbits and information that actually mean a lot to the novel's plot, characterization, and especially to the ongoing war between Ani and Selia. But since he's so dreamy, let's check out a passage featuring Geric:

At the idea of Geric, her thoughts slipped to an image of his hands as he held the knotted reins, the straps seeming thin in their bigness. And the three lines that marked the corners of his eyes when he smiled. And the moment when she climbed onto his horse, when her skirt slipped up over her knee. Before she pulled it down, he must have seen her shift, or perhaps, perhaps her leg. (10.12)

There are a lot of tiny details in this scene that give us clues to Ani's state of mind and how she feels about Geric. This is before she realizes she's crushing on the guy, yet we are already clued into the fact that she is. Check out the way she thinks about him and the specific details her mind gets to—his hands on the reins, his smile lines, the slip of her skirt. Yep, we'd say that's l-o-v-e… even if Ani hasn't figured it out yet.

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