In the last post I talked about including food in stories I write, and at some point during the writing of that post, I actually stopped to run outside to snap some pictures of a sunset. I’ve got hundreds of pictures of sunsets. I can’t seem to stop taking them because I see something different in each one.
I don’t have the best camera on earth, and many times when I want to try and really convey just how incredible the setting sun looked at 5:25 p.m., there’s just no way. I zoom out, focus, zoom in, and if you’ve done this yourself, you know it’s an ever changing view – by the seconds. What you saw, for instance at that 5:25 p.m. point, is completely different by 5:25:30. You better figure out the composition quick because it’ll be gone (snap!) just like that.
Sunrises, sunsets, the moon, a particular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the cotton fields around here in the town I live in, a freshly turned field, a pasture, all of it captures my eye, and when it does, I like to figure out a different way to write about what I’ve seen.
The other day I was outside waiting on Little Dog to do his business, and I was… well, looking up. It was sunset again, and I saw traces of a few wispy clouds through some tree branches. I thought, “…like pink ribbons laced through the tree branches.” Yep, you bet I used that phrase in the current WIP. When/if something comes along like that, hey, I’ll take it until I think of something better.
It really takes practice to figure out fresh ways to write descriptions of what my characters see around them. Sometimes this is the hardest part of writing for me. I will eventually get something down I’m happy with, but it typically takes several passes. There are times I just have to walk away and think about what is it I want to say. What I’m striving for is enabling a reader to see a scene in their head – just like looking at a picture. I want it to be richly atmospheric, loaded with images filled with color.
Here’s what I caught the other day:
I’m somewhat limited by where I live, i.e. this was taken off my back porch facing where the sun sets each day. There are power lines, TREES I can’t avoid, and rooftops I try to eliminate. Despite the obstacles, the pictures still show how colorful this sunset was, so intense I almost forgot I was holding the camera in my hand.
What I like to do after I’ve caught a moment in a photo is study what I have, and like I mentioned above, figure out a fresh way to describe it, as if the character is looking at the same thing I saw. Even if I can’t get a picture exactly right with a camera, I have to get it right in my story scene.
When I think about it, writing is a lot like trying to get that elusive perfect shot.