1. akexodia
    Offline

    akexodia Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2011
    Messages:
    93
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    The world that my mind spawns!

    Describing British country.

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by akexodia, Nov 16, 2013.

    Apart from describing the weather and the the architecture, what can I use to describe a British countryside/ rural county so that the reader can feel what the characters are feeling ?

    My plot is majorly based in a fictional County which is not suburban in nature. Lately, I've felt that I'm tending to use the weather and architecture in the narrative a lot. Any suggestions ?
     
  2. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
    Offline

    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2013
    Messages:
    2,319
    Likes Received:
    743
    Location:
    Music Room #3
    Describe the emerald green of the hills that stretched on and on forever, the beautiful blue sky, the rusty-red of the barn, etc. There's a lot to describe if you look around.
     
    akexodia likes this.
  3. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Having lived in the English countryside for most of my life, my best advice is to talk about how utterly bland and featureless the British countryside actually is. Fields and fields of nothing but a few groupings of trees and random road junctions into tiny villages I assure you you will not be able to pronounce.
     
    Auxuris and Andrae Smith like this.
  4. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Oops... apologies... near duplicate post. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2013
  5. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Although I live in Northern Ireland, it's still considered part of Great Britain. The wonderful thing about the scenery here, is that it constantly changes. When looking out a car window, you might see bright green meadows, deep green forest, rolling hills, barren looking autumnal coloured scrub, and moorland tinged with the purple and pink hues of heather. And all in a matter of minute's drive. Give the seasons consideration, too. A field of sprouting veg looks very different from a freshly ploughed or harvested field, or a field of Rape. All in all, a great colour palette to work with. :)

    Edit: And while I remember, it's also not uncommon to find really old stone circles, dolmens, court tombs, fairy rings and other reminders of bygone days.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2013
    Andrae Smith and akexodia like this.
  6. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I'm assuming that you are personally familiar with the geographic locale where you have set your story. You don't have to go on for pages about the physical setting, except insofar as they affect your character. The locale and sense of place will ooze through while you are describing your character and what is going on. The place will affect what your character does -- the weather, and the places he visits, how he commutes, the people with whom he interacts. If you concentrate on what is going on with your character, the setting should creep in, because the setting is affecting what the character is doing and feeling.
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  7. akexodia
    Offline

    akexodia Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2011
    Messages:
    93
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    The world that my mind spawns!
    Thanks a lot! That was amazingly put. I could actually feel myself there.
     
  8. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    @akexodia Ta. As much as this place has had a lot of bad press over the years, it has a lot going for it. :D
     
  9. akexodia
    Offline

    akexodia Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2011
    Messages:
    93
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    The world that my mind spawns!
    I'm not familiar with British countrysides, as in, I've never been to one. I need to include it because it is where my second story starts (picking up where the first one ended.) However, I've done all the research I could on my part. I must say I've fallen in love with that place and so I want to make it as realistic as I can. The setting is reflecting in my writing, but I feel that in some part of the narrative it is becoming a tad repetitive. :confused:
     
  10. akexodia
    Offline

    akexodia Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2011
    Messages:
    93
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    The world that my mind spawns!
    Hah! :D But, that did sound like an ideal place for romantics, not to mention you sounded like one there. ;)
     
  11. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Ok -- you say you've done a lot of research, so I believe you. If you can actually get there, that will help you even more, though. But if you think your description is becoming repetitive, maybe it is. You might have described the setting well enough. You don't necessarily have to add more description -- if you've included enough to enable to the reader to picture the scene, you don't need to continually remind the reader. You might not necessarily need to add more.
     
  12. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,618
    Likes Received:
    464
    Location:
    Sacramento
    didn't they just make game of thrones in the north?
     
    obsidian_cicatrix likes this.
  13. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Yup... I can actually see the crew coming and going from the Paint Hall studio, from my window. All the shooting locations I recognise on sight. In particular, a wee seaside town on the North coast, Ballintoy, got a bit of a makeover and serves as the Iron Islands. The weather here has been great for shooting this year.... that's the one big drawback, the rain, but then again, Westeros is hardly the most cheerful of places.
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  14. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    @akexodia

    It's been said, I don't have a romantic bone in my body, so I'll take that as a compliment. ;)
     
  15. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,775
    Likes Received:
    7,287
    Location:
    Scotland
    I'm from the USA, but I've lived in Scotland for nearly 28 years, have been several places in England, and went to Wales for a lovely week or so, back about 24 years ago. I'm due to see part of Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland next spring.

    What I can say for sure is while there are similarities, there isn't really a 'generic' British landscape. I suppose the 'green' is fairly ubiquitous in areas where there is grass ...unlike some of the Highlands of Scotland where the ground tends to be covered in heather and you don't see a lot of bright green at any time of year. Lemex's description of the many fields and little villages and crossroads is also fairly common in some areas ...probably more in England than Scotland. There are flat bits, open bits, wooded bits, mountains lakes and lochs, seacoast, sea lochs, rivers, villages, towns, cities, urban sprawl ...quite a diverse landscape, actually. The border between Scotland and England is bleak and beautiful, with rolling hills and not much else.

    One thing that many visitors comment on, at least here in Scotland, is the sky. Cloud formations are spectacular, and can run to just about every type you can imagine, and all all the one time. Rainbows are common, because ...you guessed it ...it's usually raining SOMEWHERE you can see. So don't leave the sky out of your description. It's pretty fantastic, when it's not completely overcast and grey.

    Google Colin Baxter for Scottish landscapes ...mostly rural. He takes lovely photos, and many of them appear on postcards, calendars, etc. Also Colin Prior. Stirling Gallery postcards. Roman Michnowicz for urban photos of Glasgow. Etc etc.

    Also you might want to consider things like how the weather feels. It's usually damp here in Scotland, and grass is rarely dry enough to sit on. Read ...NEVER dry enough to sit on, at least in the western part of the country. Occasionally it's dry enough to mow! It's never warm enough to hang around all night outdoors without a jacket, even in high summer. It can get very cold in winter, the kind of cold that goes straight to your bones, even when it's not actually below freezing. Wind usually accompanies rain.

    It stays very light outdoors at midsummer, and the north of Scotland only sees a few hours of darkness around the summer solstice. I can take pictures at midnight without a flash up in Ullapool around the 23rd of June, and by 4am, it's broad daylight again. The reverse happens in winter, with only a few hours of daylight ...usually from around 9am to around 3.30pm around 21 December. At that time, the sun doesn't rise very far above the horizon, and it glares in your eyes if you're not wearing eye protection. In the summer, the sun rises high and stays there most of the day.

    So ...when you're constructing your story, if you plan to set it in a 'real' location in Britain, I'd do a lot of online research. Put the name of the place into Google, add the word 'photos' or images, and see what you get. Read up on it, too. Just remember, all places are not the same AND because it's a small country, a few miles in any direction can result in a completely changed landscape.

    And different speaking accents and dialects as well. Don't believe me? Listen to a Glasgwegian, an Aberdonian, somebody from the Isle of Lewis and somebody from Dumfries, if you don't believe me. Scottish accent? Doesn't exist. The accents are all regional!

    If, however, you're setting it in 'fictional' Britain, you've probably got more scope to play. Create the landscape, weather and accents you want, and have fun.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  16. RobT
    Offline

    RobT Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2009
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    37
    Location:
    Stoke-on-Trent, England
    Go to Google maps and drop the little man on an area of countryside and you'll see first hand.
     
    akexodia and jannert like this.
  17. Laze
    Offline

    Laze Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2012
    Messages:
    118
    Likes Received:
    29
    Location:
    England, UK
    That's matter of opinion. What you find bland and boring, another might find to be the most exciting thing they've laid eyes on.

    I think when describing anything in a book, it has to be from the view point of the books character. As it's the character that's interpreting the country-side, not you yourself. Unless it's in third-person, which I guess then the scenery should be described in a more factual manner. As the narrator is supposed to be neutral. But, my advice is to go somewhere similar to a British country side, if that's possible. Stand there yourself, because it's always easy to write about something you've experienced.
    Our imaginations are not limitless. They're only extensions of what we've seen or been told about.
     
  18. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I grew up in this part of the country, but never really appreciated it until I became involved with someone who had never visited the area before. I gained an appreciation by learning to see it through her eyes.

    Find the right eyes to describe your setting. An objective view is only a starting point.
     
    Andrae Smith and akexodia like this.
  19. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,618
    Likes Received:
    464
    Location:
    Sacramento
    insert funny comment here ;)
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  20. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Ha ha!!! How did I miss that... have you been indulging in naughty audio commentary for the visually impaired again? :p
     
  21. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    @jannert, you are completely right.

    I have spent most of my life on the England/Scotland border, and that was where I was thinking of. I now live in one of England's major cities, but I mostly know the borders, and spent much of my childhood in the Highlands of Scotland - I'm half Scottish. Where I had in mind when I wrote that, specifically, was the area around Alnwick, and Rothbury, Northumberland, where I used to live. I guess Cog's point of not appreciating something because you are so used to it is right. I have also been forced to compare that part of northern England to the area around Fort William, Fort Augustus (where I used to live), and Loch Ness, which, there isn't a fair comparison there, England is dull. :p

    Your post made me nostalgic for Scotland, though, it's where I feel at home. I miss the Highlands more than anything right now. :(
     
  22. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,775
    Likes Received:
    7,287
    Location:
    Scotland
    Awww ...that's such a shame. I can see why. I just came back from Ullapool last week. Weather was total 'shite' as they say in these parts, but got a run up to Achiltibuie, which is always a treat. The road past Stac Polly is magnificent, and so is the scenery when you get to Achiltibuie. And I got to see inside the new Coigach Community Centre too ...what a fantastic building! I understand the acoustics are fabulous as well, but didn't test them, except by slurping soup and munching sandwiches. (Craft fair...)

    And of course, passed the turnoff to Ft Augustus on the A-9, both ways back down to Glasgow. Do you still have family in the highlands? Do you ever get back up for a visit? I hope so. The Borders are fascinating as well. They feel significant in some way, and once you've crossed them in either direction you know you're in a different country. Hadrian's Wall? Don't get me started. Just LOVE it. The landscape around it in some places has hardly changed since it was built. Very atmospheric.
     
    Catrin Lewis likes this.
  23. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    We still have friends up there, and we go to see them every few years, or so, for a meet up in Inverness. I love that city. :) When there I always make a point to take the shuttle cars up Ben Nevis. The view up there is spectacular.

    For me the best part of The Borders is (by the route we usually go) when you get to around the River Blackadder, and the Scottish side. You are right, it's weird, you can just tell the difference, somehow.

    You like Hadrian's Wall. Once, just after high school my friends and I walked the length of it. It took three or four days, and it was an amazing! I really recommend doing that. We got a lift out to Cumbria and walked all the way to Walls End, Newcastle. I really recommend doing that. :)
     
    Catrin Lewis likes this.
  24. art
    Offline

    art Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2010
    Messages:
    1,159
    Likes Received:
    113
    Hedgerows, a very common feature of the British rural landscape*, significantly shape the nature of your experience as you travel about the place. The sweeping hills are there but sit behind walls of green and are often only fleetingly glimpsed through decrepit gates. Frustration is a central feature of the traveller's experience. (That and a profound regret that he can't afford a Range Rover.)

    *Much less true of the moorlands and flatlands.
     
    akexodia likes this.
  25. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    What are some festivities that might be uniquely British? Say, bonfire night, pancake day, daily telegraph news stands reporting on the royal family. How about mentioning some chains? - I don't really know if any of these chains are "British", but say, Accessorize, Millie's Cookies, Greg's, Sainsbury's, Miss Selfridges, maybe throw in a few British pubs. Fox and Hound, Hungry Horse, Queen's Head - these are not names you usually find outside of England I think. People laughing about Stephen Fry or Jonathan Ross, Little Britain, the X Factor hype over the summer and then the Christmas number one. Right now the heated debate on immigration and the Roma community and budget cuts - if these things were in your character's conversation it'd probably give a pretty realistic sense of the UK right now. Ooh, and don't forget Doctor Who.

    Use British terminology - chips rather than fries, crisps rather than chips, biscuits rather than cookies (though we do also have cookies lol), scones are not biscuits, rubber rather than eraser, lorry, not truck, brolly - slang for umbrella, sweets rather than candy. I've heard darling is supposed to be quite "British" too. Of course then there's the American favourite of using "bloody" to indicate anything as English, but it could work lol in dialogue.

    What do your characters eat? Do they have cravings for fish and chips with vinegar and gravy? Chicken korma? Spotted dick? Walker's crisps? Toad in a hole? Yorkshire pudding? Cream tea? How do they take their tea? - put some milk in it :p Have a cuppa, as we say. Or when we don't like something, we might say, "It's not my cup of tea."

    In other words, don't just describe generic views. There's only so many times you can write "rolling hills" and "verdant fields" before it blends together and gets dull. Throw in some specifics - when your character's walking around town, what does he/she see?

    What strikes me whenever I go back is how polished everything seems, the massive sales signs plastered from wall to wall all along the street, the subways and McDonald's and Top Shop and then nestled in between are all the charity shops. Don't leave out the charity shops. Oxfam, British Heart Foundation, Sue Ryder, always in tiny buildings with flaking paint and probably a metal wire basket out front with discounted books and other bits, sweet old ladies manning the till and chattering away with the latest customer about a particularly pretty piece of jewellery or the fact that this little ornament came in just yesterday. Buses are never on time and when the sun's out, all hell breaks loose because in 2 hours' time it'll be gone, you can bet your life on it :p On the sunny days you'll find people mowing their lawns and doing bits of gardening, a national hobby. Walk into any pub and there's probably a 2 for £10 meal deal or lunch deal on, a student favourite would be Wetherspoons with its steak nights and curry nights. There're trees around the roundabouts and beside the motorways just before you leave the city. There're nearly always pigeons. Swans are the queen's property but nobody really cares.
     
    Catrin Lewis and akexodia like this.

Share This Page