Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Write A Rainbow

When I write a book, the setting is almost as important to me as the characters. Although I use a ‘type’ of landscape I am familiar with, I will always reinvent it. I design hills and rivers, roads and settlements. And when it is finished I can see it, as if it is a film. I know its different moods; what it looks like in winter, in summer, when the sun rises, and when the sun sets.

Colour, atmosphere, texture are very important elements of the picture I have created. I love that honey light you get sometimes, particularly in the autumn, as if viewing the scene through amber sunglasses. I love the washed out colours of winter, those cool, pale greys, ice blues and sage greens. And, when I come to inhabit my landscape with my cast of characters, I need to know the colour of their eyes, their complexions, their hair colour and the colours and styles of the clothes they wear, before I can even begin.

But unless you are a literary writer, description has to be handled with caution - a little here and a little there. It is often said that ‘research’ should be like an iceberg. You do it, you know it, but not a lot should show above the surface. If you pile too much onto the reader, it becomes top-heavy and tedious. I feel the same about description. You can trust the reader to fill in what they have not been told. I recently read all the books in a series of UK based crime novels. I am not going to mention the author, he is very successful and I wouldn’t have read the books one after another like that, if I hadn’t enjoyed them, but.... It’s not that I don’t want to have a mental image of the important characters in the novel I am reading, I do, but there’s description and description! The author detailed the clothes of every individual - whether a significant player or a walk-on part. And more than once. I wanted to tell him: ‘Enough! I don’t need to know this. Just give me a hint!’

The other way to use colour is to think of it as a metaphorical concept. Every book needs changes in pace, light and dark, ups and downs, passion and serenity, anger and indifference, loss and success. Unless you alter the mood, your story will be ‘all one note’ and will leave the reader bored or unsatisfied. You could think of it almost like a symphony. The whole has to have a unity, but the lyrical passage has to be counterpointed against a dramatic movement, which is then counterpointed against a reprise or a rondo - the symphony coming, at last, to a satisfying crescendo. I am talking about every genre here - after all, the interplay of human relationships can have plenty of ‘colour’, with or without the added ingredients of adventure, murder, or an invasions by space aliens!

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