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Writing naturally

5th July 2021 |

How do you create a sense of authenticity in an imagined environment?

Not a problem if you set a scene in a recognisable place and time. Even if you can’t go there, images and videos can be dissected for details. It’s slightly more challenging if you are adapting a place. Harder still is the creation of a brand new world. However, I wonder how easily we slip into well used images when with a bit of lateral thinking, we could come up with something that is convincing as well as enjoyable for the reader?

Gone are the days when authors could indulge in page long descriptions of settings. However tempting it is for us to enjoy creating sumptuous prose full of luscious descriptions that capture the senses so we can hear, taste, smell and feel as well as see the sights, does our reader want to read them? Or would they read a bit and then skip the next few paragraphs to get on with the story? To be honest I skim any sections like this as I want to get to the characters and the plot. A few details are enough, particularly as it allows me to create the world in my head.  But which details?

 What conjures up a sense of foreboding on a dark night? The owl of course but if it’s the wrong time of year, the little fellows stay quiet. A fox barking? Certainly, January when they are mating. And what about a hot summer’s afternoon? The cuckoo? He stops singing his traditional song in June and has gone by July and August. Writers are often encouraged to keep a notebook with them when they are out and about to jot down snatches of overheard conversation or a detail of building or setting. What would happen if included sounds and sights from the natural world.  It could add even more authenticity to what we write.

A lone crow cawing on a winter day as the wind careers across the headland doesn’t create the same feeling as the flurry of gulls as they swoop low over the water, squawking for the last chip from a hastily discarded wrapper that has fallen from the litter bin. The squeaks, whistles and chatters of the starlings as they dunk themselves in the bird bath create a very different feeling to the murmuration seen in a late winter afternoon when the swish of their wings as they twist and turn.

I’m recommending reconnecting with the natural world and creating a list of sounds and sights that help create an atmosphere or a particular time or place. Who knows you might even consider reading nature notes in some of the daily newspapers; plenty of ideas there and absolutely true to the life of the natural world.

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