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  • Enticing locations
    by FunkyPenguin at 20:24 on 23 July 2013
    First of all, a big hello to everyone reading this as I've just become a full member of the site.

    I'm fairly new at fiction writing and one of the main issues I'm having is describing the locations used in my story in a fresh and exciting way.

    My story plays out sort of like a zombie movie (except instead of zombies they are killer vegetables) with my main character constantly on the move in order to avoid being eaten. My characters move from a school, to a town hall, to a hospital, to a warehouse and I'm struggling to introduce each new location in a unique way. I don't want to just be giving perfunctory descriptions of what each place looks like.

    Initially I drew upon the main character's past experiences of these locations to add a bit of flavour. For example the town hall used to give him the creeps because there were huge stone lions guarding the entranceway. However, this has become somewhat of a crutch and my mind will no longer offer alternative approaches to the problem!
  • Re: Enticing locations
    by Account Closed at 20:39 on 23 July 2013
    Hi FunkyPenguin

    Welcome to WW. Killer vegetables. Well, that's definitely a new one.

    Initially I drew upon the main character's past experiences of these locations to add a bit of flavour.

    LOL. Love the pun.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your work in the groups - if you choose to upload, as not everyone joins WW to critique. If you want technical information, there is plenty of that available on here too.

    Edited by Sharley at 20:40:00 on 23 July 2013
  • Re: Enticing locations
    by FunkyPenguin at 21:01 on 23 July 2013
    I would love to say that pun was intentional

    I have recently uploaded the opening two scenes of my work, although as I'm still fairy new at this I'm not sure whereabouts they have been placed! I'm also currently browsing through the groups to see which would be most suitable for me.

    I'm hoping to be fairly active on WriteWords in both the groups and the forums as my rather ambitious aim is to get my manuscript transformed into a half-decent read by Christmas.
  • Re: Enticing locations
    by Account Closed at 21:14 on 23 July 2013
    I see you have joined Intensive Critique (IC). Look forward to seeing you there.

    When uploading your work, did you click the button at the end that says upload your work to IC? Currently, I can see your work in your profile but it is not showing as uploaded to IC, so I guess that you will need to edit your work (press Owner Edit) and click the button near the end of the page that asks where to upload it - click Intensive Critique.

  • Re: Enticing locations
    by FunkyPenguin at 21:31 on 23 July 2013
    Haha, success! Thank you for that.
  • Re: Enticing locations
    by EmmaD at 22:06 on 23 July 2013
    Hi FunkyPenguin, and welcome to WW. Sounds as if you're finding your way around.

    The important thing about settings isn't that the reader can picture the whole thing; description isn't a brief for the set designer.

    What matters is the way that your character interacts with the place: how the huge hall makes them feel, how difficult it is to squeeze down the sewer, whether it's hot, cold, noisy, quiet, brilliantly lit so they can see everything or so bright their eyes water, very gloomy so they suspect there are eavesdroppers in the shadows. Does it remind them of something in their past, or are they so concentrating on coping with it now that it doesn't occur to them till later that there was a clue there... Is one of your two characters excited and exhilarated by clambering up this mysterious mountain crag by glittering, icy crag, the other terrified and exhausted?

    You'd be surprised how little readers actually need in terms of detail, as long as they get a strong physical sense of what the experience of that place is like for the character who is interacting with it.

    You might find this post on my blog useful:


    Edited by EmmaD at 22:07:00 on 23 July 2013
  • Re: Enticing locations
    by Catkin at 23:04 on 23 July 2013
    Killer vegetables? These I must experience. Please leave them in IC for a while, Penguin. I'm a member there, and I'm active when I have time. I'm totally run off my feet at the moment and haven't been around, but I am hoping to get back to IC soon.
  • Re: Enticing locations
    by FunkyPenguin at 09:28 on 24 July 2013
    Emma, thank you very much for the link and for the very useful advice contained within.

    don't stall the action with an unconvincingly long series of observations

    I think this is probably my biggest problem. My writing tends to be quite pacey due to the constant peril my character's face. But then they come to a new location and the writing stalls for a paragraph or two while they take in their surroundings and examine how the place makes them feel. I think I probably need to use a lighter touch and let the reader fill in some of the details for themselves.

    I've bookmarked your link for future use as I have a feeling I'll be refering to it quite a bit.

    Catkin, I'm glad you like my story idea I'll leave them in IC for a while as I'm really eager for any feedback, both positive and negative!
  • Re: Enticing locations
    by EmmaD at 09:41 on 24 July 2013
    FP, you're welcome!

    the writing stalls for a paragraph or two while they take in their surroundings and examine how the place makes them feel.

    Maybe what's not working about this isn't so much that we don't want the stuff about surroundings and feelings, it's that it happens at the beginning, when they first encounter it.

    I'm an observant person, on the whole - I do notice details of environment - but my experience as both a human being and a writer (not the same thing, obviously ) is that most of what you absorb about the place comes to you in bits and pieces, in among the action of what happens. I think of this as "leaking out" in among what's happening.

    After all, you first enter that place for a reason, as a character-in-action, with the intention of doing something. You don't, usually, stand there thinking straight away, "I hate this kind of room, it's just like my granny's" (unless it's the dentist's waiting room, obv), you go in thinking, "I don't want to tell him I want a divorce, but I'm damn well going to. And he still hasn't changed those ghastly cabbage-rose curtains.". But the fact that the room has bad vibes for you may well leak out somewhere in the scene which is about to happen. "I should have known you'd be a useless husband when you insisted on keeping that awful stuffed owl just because it reminded you of my bloody grandmother. You didn't even sympathise when she cut me out of her will." And then she picks the owl up and hurls it at him.
  • Re: Enticing locations
    by Account Closed at 11:33 on 24 July 2013
    I think as Emma says the important thing is to be in the character's skin and experiencing the room as they experience it.

    So a character entering a restaurant with his lady love intent on proposing might think "The room was candlelit, the frail golden flames illuminating his chosen table in a warm intimate glow, though the red velvet banquettes were in dim shadow. Romantic, of course, but what if it were too dim for her to notice the ring in her glass of champagne? What if she tossed it back and fell choking to the parquet floor?"

    The same character entering the same restaurant on the run from, say, killer vegetables might think, "The lighting was dim - terrifyingly dim. What manner of sinister aubergine might be lurking in the shadows beneath the tables? And the red velvet banquettes were the perfect place for a tomato to camouflage itself, ready for a bloody ambush. But if he could commandeer one of the booths that lined the back wall - those he might be able to fortify against attack. But to get to them, he would have to negotiate the vast, dark expanse of the empty restaurant. Just as he was psyching himself up, ready to make the charge, the candleflames guttered and dipped and he turned to see that the double doors from the kitchen had been flung open. His worst fears were realised: the leeks had found him."

  • Re: Enticing locations
    by debac at 12:40 on 24 July 2013
    I've given you some feedback on your piece, FP. Hope it's helpful.
  • Re: Enticing locations
    by FunkyPenguin at 13:55 on 24 July 2013
    Thank you for those very useful examples.

    Iíve always concentrated on what details the characters would notice about a particular place but neglected to consider when they would notice each of these things. Would they notice everything as soon as they entered? (unlikely) Or would details come to them in dribs and drabs as they explored and interacted with the environment? (much more likely)

    On the back of your advice I've just started to rewrite a section where my character comes across an abandoned warehouse and already the scene seems to have more energy.
  • Re: Enticing locations
    by Astrea at 15:19 on 24 July 2013
    Killer vegetables? I am hooked already