As a writer my job is to set a scene for my readers. Seems pretty self-explanatory, right? Well yes and no. If I simply tell you about the scene, you (as the reader) are an outside observer, But good writing pulls the reader into the experience and lets them become a part of it.
So how to do this? Senses. If I can see, hear, smell, touch and taste the scene I become part of it. So today I am going to talk about the sense of SIGHT. For a writer, sight is normally the easiest sense to use. We are a visual people and the default sense for us is our sight so when we describe a scene it is what we see happening. But sight can be tricky as well.
Why? Well let me explain. (You knew that was coming right?) As the writer, the scene plays out in my head. It is 3-D, full color sensory overload. And it make perfect sense to me. But a writer cannot tell you every single tini-tiny detail. I mean we can, but then our books would be 2000+ pages and no one would ever get through them. So we have to pick out those details the carry the most punch. That convey the meaning of a scene. In other words why is the scene necessary? How does it move the story along?
Movies are good examples of how to pick out a detail that signifies a theme or symbol of what you are trying to convey. One of the best examples I have ever seen of this was in the movie Schindler’s List. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is a film about the atrocities of the Holocaust and it was filmed in black and white. But there is a scene where people are being evacuated and moved to prison camps and in the midst of this horror and violence is a little girl in a red coat. The red coat is the only shot of color in the entire scene and we are drawn to it as the girl, oblivious to the reality around her, heads down the street. If that was not powerful enough, later the red coat appears again when the little girl lies dead in a pile of bodies. This movie was released in the early 90’s and to this day I still remember that scene. How can you not remember the death of innocence?
I’m sorry if my example has depressed you. That was not my intent and my writing is nowhere near that soul-wrenching. But there is a power to describing a scene and paying special attention to those details that convey your message.
So as I read through my Mind Sweeper manuscript, I think about the scenes and make sure that the important details are included. I draw the reader into the scene and hopefully the emotion and that’s what makes writing great.
Task #29 – describe the RIGHT details in my scenes