Can you picture this scene? Can you feel it, taste it, hear it, smell it? The narrator tells us there was an abundance of food, including candy, and the character was hungry. We know the room is quiet and empty because the character says he spoke a greeting and no one answered. So, is this the best a writer could do?
Here’s how Thomas Mann wrote it in Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man.
“It was a narrow room, with a rather high ceiling, and crowded from floor to ceiling with goodies. There were rows and rows of hams and sausages of all shapes and colors – white, yellow, red and black; fat and lean and round and long – rows of canned preserves, cocoa and tea, bright translucent glass bottles of honey, marmalade and jam.
"I stood enchanted, straining my ears and breathing in the delightful atmosphere and the mixed fragrance of chocolate and smoked fish and earthy truffles. I spoke into the silence, saying : “Good day” in quite a loud voice. I can still remember how my strained, unnatural tones died away in the stillness. No one answered. And my mouth literally began to water like a spring. One quick, noiseless step and I was beside one of the laden tables. I made one rapturous grab into the nearest glass urn, filled as it chanced with chocolate creams, slipped a fistful into my coat pocket, then reached the door, and in the next second was safely around the corner.“
Here's what Mann's scene does that the first one doesn't do:
It's packed with specific details that involve the senses. We can see the food that crowds the room, the rows and rows of hams and sausages and brightly canned preserves. We can smell the chocolate and smoked fish. We can hear the character say the words, "Good day" in a loud voice, and we can taste the food he anticipates.
Mann's scene has another very important attribute. It conveys strong emotions we can identify with. We feel the character's hunger, excitement and awe over such abundance. We feel we're in the scene with him.
Can you see the difference?