This afternoon I have my writing group; we have been meeting for about three years now and we’ve covered lots of different areas of writing. I’m not sure if the way I lead the class is the best way – I guess having been a teacher, I go into a sort of teacher mode! I suppose what I want people to do is to think about their writing, to try and challenge themselves to write in different ways or extend themselves.
Since September we have looked at different ways of writing, last time we were looking at the narrator… this time we’re…
Thinking about location…
- what is the actual location – how do you make it clear where this is?
- when does the story happen – this will affect the details of your description (e.g. gaslights not electric, type of transport in the streets, ships in a harbour etc.)
- Does the scene suggest its history? Old buildings, winding roads, strange field shapes, names reflecting former times Mill Lane, Field View, Castleton, Broadbridge?
- what is the weather or climate like – this will affect the colours, what people are wearing, the type of buildings and houses. If the location is indoors the weather/climate will affect whether fires are lit, central heating/air conditioning is on, windows open, lights on or off
- What time of day/year/season is it – this will affect light, colour,
- what is the landscape like?Is there a geographical aspect e.g. hills, mountains, rivers, etc. – this affects urban areas too
- what are the social or community conditions (expensive neighbourhood, bleak rural landscape, urban environment)
- are there people in the scene whose actions either affect it, or are affected by it (someone digging up the road, or someone sheltering from the rain under an overhanging cliff) Do the type of people or what they are wearing/doing/how they’re behaving add to the description of the location (people wearing beach clothes, people in a crowded part of town, people affected by the noise in a working quarry)
- does the scene suggest who lives there – churches or synagogues, temples or mosques, Polish shops or Indian shops, cottages or farms, retirement bungalows or apartment buildings?
Thinking about your writing…
- Is there progression… do you take your reader sequentially from one place to the next as if following a line of vision, or walking along a route, or are the details randomly described?
- Are we seeing the scene through characters/people whose thoughts and ideas would ‘colour’ what is seen (it may be memories of a place as well as a character being in a place)
- Is the scene described by a specific person or from that person’s point of view? If so is s/he a stranger or a local, do they feel at ease or anxious, do they like or hate the place, find it deadly dull of interesting? How are these thoughts/ideas/feelings woven into the description?
- Have you used different senses in what you have written? As well as visual is there what can be heard, smelled, sensed, felt
- Remember – show don’t tell e.g. “Their throats were full of the dust and sand of the desert.” Rather than “The desert was very dusty and sandy.”
© Lois Elsden