As writers, we all have our own styles. Our characters develop their own personalities and our stories almost take their own direction at a certain point, while we, spanner in hand, are there to make the adjustments at the pitstop. So we must remember that it is our characters that are driving the story, not us.
It is when we set a scene, or describe a background that we must pay particular attention to this. If we set a narrative in say, Sápmi, or Lappland as an example, through our own eyes, we might do a wonderful job describing the deep blue of a lake, and the moody, brooding hills behind, with ripples on the water’s surface and fluttering birch tree leaves.
But that is just not enough. However beautifully or dramatically written the description is, it just won’t work if it is just plunked in, there, in the beginning or middle of the narrative. There are two reasons. First of all, in Lappland there are eight distinct seasons, as opposed to our four. If we label our description with ”it was Spring,” we have already done it injustice and indeed in a sense falsified it. To avoid this, we need the scenery, background or description of the setting to be done by our characters, who can ”see” and feel the surroundings better than we can. We simply cannot describe a scene or setting without putting one of the characters of our novel into it.
Imagine how differently you might describe the lake with a Sámi shaman woman at the scene. And once your character has been put there, s/he must move through the scene and interact with it. She can scan the water with her restless eyes, noticing the sudden ripples spreading cross the water surface, but reassured by the fluttering birch tree leaves. Now the lake itself really becomes a part of the story that slowly we are now setting in mysterious Lappland, with the solitary Sámi shaman woman and her reindeer, as they make their way through the rough bracken, with thorns clawing against her thick moccasins, the cloudberries already picked and the sky darkening with her arrival.
By always having someone from your narrative walk through a scene you are setting, or interact with your description, your reader will in turn be drawn into it and become part of the novel, as its reader. But that is only possible by drawing your descriptive passages and characters together.
- Ending a Scene (kristinastanley.net)
- A Writer’s Lair ~ Lappland (managuagunntoday.wordpress.com)
- Writing is Business (secondwindpub.wordpress.com)
- Love and Other Catastrophes: Tolstoy’s Systems Theory of Love (3quarksdaily.com)