1. TheApprentice
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    TheApprentice Contributing Member

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    Contrast Scenery and Conflicts

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by TheApprentice, Apr 12, 2016.

    So I have finally actually started writing my novel without concerning to much about being perfect. Having something down is still progress, right? Anyway, I did the opening scene and already I feel the urge to edit.

    See, my story is full of bad people, atrocities, and grotesque monsters. At the same time it is on an island and the characters will travel to various places in different parts of the world, beautiful places (beaches, mountains, forests, abandoned castles, etc.). This gives me a great idea: contrasting the beauty of the scenery with all the bad shit in the novel.

    I don't really know how to describe scenery well though, especially in a way to portray it as beautiful or magnificent. I am also unsure if it would be awkward or dull to describe a fight against a star spawned tentacle thing while also describing the lush forest and soft grass in the same scene.

    So where would be the best place to look for how to best describe beautiful scenery such a mountains, beaches, weather, etc. What do you think of my idea?
     
  2. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Descriptions work best when your point of view character would be noticing and reacting to the scenery, which is less likely in a fight when the character is rather busy.

    Still you can sneak some details in, by making the landscape an active component in an action sequence.
    I'm going to risk creating an example. There are people on this forum more experienced at creating on the fly examples than I am, but I hope it's enough to illustrate my point.

    The ground rumbled and a glistening tentacle burst from the meadow, flinging soil, grass and buttercups high into the air.
    Lawrence gagged as a putrid stench filled his nostrils. He needed to reach cover before the behemoth heaved itself to the surface, but this damn meadow was to open. A forest of magnificent cedars began in the middle distance, but it'd take five minutes to reach. Too far. He'd have to fight while the behemoth remained trapped.
    He screamed a war cry and launched himself at the tentacle, swinging his battle axe over his head, but the grotesque appendage whipped towards him. The wind was knocked from him and he was sent sprawling through a patch of wild flowers
    Lawrence sat up and spat a violet from his mouth. The ground was shaking, and crevices formed through the meadow. The behemoth was coming.
     
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  3. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    This works quite well. As you mentioned already, one should be careful not to insert to much - and probably unnoticed in the characters pov - detail and scenery into the action. It draws away from the tension and comes across as a bit awkward and out of place. This was written pretty well though, and did not detract from the action at all.

    Another option could be to write a vivid, and treacherously peaceful descriptive paragraph before switching head on into the action. This way, both goals are achieved. First, a good and effective description of the scenery, and then a shocking twist into the action, made even more exiting by the seemingly peaceful description that precedes it.
     
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  4. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Good point. They'll be times when you want a more descriptive passage before the action. Worthwhile having both options in your toolbox.
     
  5. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    Definitely. Now of course, how one would implement such a thing as this all depends on the scene's context withing the narrative. One thing from your piece of writing here that struck me as particularly well found was this; " The ground rumbled and a glistening tentacle burst from the meadow, flinging soil, grass and buttercups high into the air."

    Now, this might seem like just a one-word detail, but I think that most people, including myself, would initially go with "ground" here instead of "meadow". Just changing it into meadow however, creates a whole different, and much more striking picture with the difference of just one word. I took this example only to demonstrate how one word, or a seemingly unimportant little sentence, can mean a world of difference.

    To the OP: I think it is these kind of details you want to focus on. While using a whole sentence to describe a scenery can work very well and can produce some nice prose, finding the right word that perfectly matches what you are aiming for should also be a top-priority. Instead of looking for places on the web that might teach you how to write good descriptions of scenery, what I think might work best is to work on perfecting your choice of words. The above example by @plothog illustrates this very well.

    Besides that, another tip. I don't claim on being an expert on this, but what I often do is this; Say, for example, you want to write about a scenery of mountains on a sunny day. Now, when you would focus just on that; on the sun and the mountains, your well of words will dry up pretty quickly. Focus instead on secondary detail. Pines on the slopes weaving in the wind. Birds racing from top to top. A blanket of snow laying quietly on the peaks, or the sunlight shimmering on one of the many streams that flows down from the mountain. When doing this, there is a load of things to write about, and all of them will add to the effectiveness of your description.
     

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