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As writers of fiction and poetry, I believe part of our responsibility to readers is to allow them to travel places they have never been or to revisit places that are familiar, thus evoking memories or heightening awareness.
Long descriptive paragraphs of setting often disenchant today’s readers who are used to momentary flashes of multiple images across a screen within a few seconds (Does this relate to the high incidence of attention deficit disorder in our culture?) but the fact remains that setting and the use of sensory description enriches the reader’s experience. One way to use this technique without losing our audience is employ it as a device to break up dialogue. Here’s a very brief example from my recently-published novel, “Winter is Past”
“I wonder how Michael’s handling it. Do you think I should I call him?” Josh asked me.
“Will it help?” Based on Kathryn’s assessment, I had my doubts.
Josh shook his head and fixed his eyes on a quail eating seeds he’d planted in the flower garden. “Maybe not, but I can try; I’ll call after we eat…”
Even more valuable, in my opinion, is the writer’s ability to convey emotion through setting. Consider this brief passage from the same novel as a means of eliciting fear, sadness and powerlessness:
I trotted after Kathryn who jogged along the brick path beside our house. My eye caught sight of a tiny wren, cowering in the dense foliage of a rambling juniper shrub. Overhead, a majestic red-tailed hawk circled, squawking a message of certain doom at the tiny bird. I felt tears well up in my eyes then turned my attention back to Kathryn who now disappeared through the redwood gate.
In previous posts, I’ve described a practice I use off and on. In your writing journal, at the end of each day, describe 5-10 things you have noticed throughout the day. Return to these lists for ideas to supplement your own writing then return to a scene you have written in which you have “told” rather than “shown” an emotion. Try rewriting it using a bit of scenery or a background activity to elicit that same feeling. This is helpful to keep in mind when you are rewriting/revising your work as well.
So, for today’s prompt, write a poem or a piece of short fiction that features setting and/or description. You may want to post a bit of dialogue that you’ve broken up using the above-mentioned technique.
How to participate? Simply post your submission on your blog, then access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this page. Add your name and the direct URL of your post, and voila–you’re in. Kindly take the time to visit and comment on other participants.
I will be on the road for a couple of days, so I may not be able to visit your posts right away. Thank you for participating and have fun writing.