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Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend

A Spirit of Place:How I draw up my settings

No story can take place in a void, and this is what I try to keep in mind as I write a scene and place it in a setting.

1. What can my character see on the skyline? What’s in the distance? What are the distant sounds? Is there any wind? Do sounds or smells float on the wind? Are there trees along the line of a hill, bending to the breeze? Is there a sail on the horizon?

2. What time of day is it? If night, is there a moon? Are there stars? What kind of weather is it? What season of the year? Are there any seasonal animals or flowers or any seasonal activities on show?

3. What can my character detect from the middle distance? Are there sounds? Sights?
4. I try then to add close-ups to my settings, particularly color and movement but also taste and scent. Blaring sounds - or soft but thrilling sounds. Cold. Rain. Wind. Scorching sun. Frost. Can my characters hear themselves speak for the enthusiastic playing of musicians or smell onions frying in the kitchen next door?

When I'm describing a setting, I try to thread it through the story, odd touches and gleams here and there, like a carving in a wood panel. I try usually to have my people DOING SOMETHING within that setting, something pertinent and interesting. I think we are all are charmed by ‘insider’ knowledge and by skill, so if my character can weave or work metal or line-dance or flower arrange or stargaze or gut fish or carve or shovel or knead and plait bread - any task that’s a bit different - I try to show them at it.


Julie Robinson said...

Your post today is a writing workshop in itself. Such attention to detail in the questions to ask really makes a reader feel she is in that setting. I'll be printing this post out to keep a copy. Thank you,

Linda Banche said...

Thanks for all the good info on how to find the details that make a scene.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks, Julie and Linda! I'm delighted you both find it interesting and useful. Best wishes, Lindsay (Obviously I don't count in the comments. Grin.)

Francesca Prescott said...

You're such a good teacher; I wish I could come and have lessons with you. What I love is that you are so aware of what you're doing, so in control. I know that I also put a lot of detail into my scenes, but I can't dissect the craft the way you can. This was truly fascinating. I'll print it out and stick it on my pin board. More, please!

xx Francesca

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks, Francesca!

LK Hunsaker said...

Lindsay, wonderful point about the characters doing something within the scene rather than just a narrative description obviously to "tell" the reader where they are. :-)