(The quote below is from one of Chekhov's letters to other Russian writer, Maxim Gorky.)

Your nature descriptions are artistic; you are a true landscape painter. But your frequent personifications (anthropomorphism), when the sea breathes, the sky looks on, the steppe basks, and nature whispers, talks, grieves, etc.—these personifications make your descriptions a bit monotonous, sometimes cloying, and sometimes unclear. Color and expressivity in nature descriptions are achieved through simplicity alone, through simple phrases like "the sun set," "it grew dark," "it began to rain," etc.

As I asked in the title, what are some examples of the "simple but vivid" description that Chekhov talks about in letter excerpt above? (Examples can be from books, novels, your own writing—really wherever.)

  • 1
    Other than the examples in the quote, you mean? Jul 23, 2020 at 6:49
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    Is "asked in the title" new? Is the OP contending that "The sun set," is a simple and "vivid" description?
    – Zan700
    Aug 1, 2020 at 1:01
  • @Zan700 No, that phrase has been there the whole time - but yeah, I don't know where the word 'vivid' has come from either... Aug 1, 2020 at 6:52

2 Answers 2


Well, The sun shone, the grass grew, the waves crashed. It's odd advice from Chekov. The following are from Chekov's short story "The Witch":

And the wind staggered like a drunkard. The snowdrifts were covered with a thin coating of ice; tears quivered on them and on the trees;

I supposed he might be saying there's good and bad anthropomorphism.

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    Someone proposed an edit on my answer. Please tell me the reasons for the edit. If Chekov uses "The sun set" or "It grew dark:" as examples of simple phrases (there's no mention of "vivid" in Chekov's advice), then "The sun shone" or "The waves crashed" are no less simple phrases. But my main point was that Chekov goes against his own advice with the samples I took from The Witch, which are rich in anthropomorphism. Also, why the hell would an edit include lower casing "Witch" in the story's title?
    – Zan700
    Jul 31, 2020 at 20:06

I missed the color and expressivity (I don't think that's a word, but OK) in Chekov's phrase "The sun set." Having absorbed it, I will offer "The sun rose," as an equally simple but vivid phrase. In fact, I would argue that "The sun rose," is both a simpler and more vivid phrase than "The sun set." "The sun rose," not only expresses the spatial aspect of the phenomenon, but juxtapositions "sun" and "rose," the sun being a kind of rose (brilliantly colored flower), drawing attention to the sunniness of the sun. Simpler in its disdain for alliteration, "The sun rose," pales "The sun set."

  • You might be better absorbing this into your existing answer :) Aug 1, 2020 at 6:55
  • When I try to edit, I'm taken to a page that shows the attempted edit and I can't make changes there. I've been been on the English Stack Exchange for years, and editing an answer has been straightforward.
    – Zan700
    Aug 1, 2020 at 10:20
  • Oh, that's weird. Maybe it has to wait until someone approves or declines the proposed edit? I don't think I have the rep for that, sorry Aug 1, 2020 at 12:28
  • Well, I was prompted to accept or reject the edit, and I rejected it. But that didn't allow me to edit my answer.
    – Zan700
    Aug 2, 2020 at 1:48
  • In that case I have no idea, sorry Aug 2, 2020 at 7:46

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