By Clare Langley-Hawthorne
Having just visited six national parks (Sequoia, Yosemite, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon) I have a renewed appreciation for the power of landscape (and, I might add, an intimate knowledge of all their junior ranger programs!).
Using landscape and location is critical to my own work, but I think there is a fine line between setting an evocative scene and going over the top. I have no doubt many landscapes make powerful characters in their own right, but they should never be allowed to overwhelm the story. Readers want to know about people not about rocks and trees. For new writers I think using landscape effectively can be a challenge and, for what it’s worth, I have a few tips that I’d like to share…
First, I do not subscribe to the “write what you know” philosophy. I believe you should write about any place you want to, whether or not you have been there. I would add the caveat, however, that if you do write about a place you have never been you must do your research very, very thoroughly. Readers need to be confident of the setting you have created, so misnamed places, inappropriate plants etc. will only undermine that confidence.
Secondly, use description sparingly. No one needs to read a travelogue and often I think it can be harder to write about a place you know intimately than one with which you have only a passing acquaintance. Sometimes it is, quite literally, too hard to tell the wood from the trees.
Thirdly, consider a new aspect or angle to your use of landscape. Use something about the place that is unusual or surprising, which illuminates something meaningful about the characters or plot. I try to make the landscape reflect mood, character or theme.
Finally, abandon the clichés as much as possible. Nothing is more yawn inducing than paragraphs filled with really obvious or trite descriptions. Keep it fresh.
Anyway, as I am still on the road, this post is another short one but I would like to hear your comments and thoughts on using landscape. What in your view are some of the most egregious mistakes made in terms of overdoing use of landscape?
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad