Showing The Scenery

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Good morning, my fellow wordsmiths! I thought I’d tap a few words out, just to check on you. I find that writing throughout the day keeps me focused on what’s really important to me, even if the subject matter seems mundane.

Right now, I’m sitting on top of a red hardened plastic tool box, stacked atop a weathered blue plastic milk crate. My little make-shift office is nothing more than the hollowed, white metal, rear compartment of my company cargo van. In fact, my desktop is actually a pulled-out gray steel tool drawer. I draped my favorite University Of Michigan sweatshirt over the opened slots to give my lap top a cushy surface. Enya is crooning through the speakers, partially blocking out the ambient chaos of I-94 westbound traffic; did I forget to mention I’m sitting along the side of the road? The sky is cloudy here in Hartford, Michigan and the weather is a cool 68 degrees.

Staring through the windows of the double swing side doors, I see the leaves of the highway shrubbery beginning to turn. Their summer green shades are slowly fading to the burnt oranges, faded yellows and crisp auburns of fall. I glance right, and gazes through the windows of the double swing back doors. Behind me, sparkling black asphalt roadway shimmers as the amber light of my van’s whirling safety bulb reflects off of its new surface. The freshly painted white dashed lines of the lane dividers shine despite the overcast skies. Semi-trucks whizzing by in the right lane shake my van on its sturdy shocks with each passing vehicle.

I once read a quote somewhere that said, “Don’t tell me what the scene looks like. Show me the scenery through the eyes of your words.” Okay, I didn’t really read that somewhere. I just made it up. But, it works for me. Painting scenery is a constant challenge for me, and this brand new quote—which is really nothing more than a personal challenge every time I sit down to write—reminds me to show my readers what the P.O.V. (that’s point of view) looks like.

When I began reading novels, Stephen King was my first choice. In my ignorance, I complained about how slow some of his masterful works started off, before diving into the real action. What I failed to realize was how meticulously Mr. King painted the scenery of each book. He would never bother with simply stating the facts of who a protagonist is. He would never say things like,

“Greg is 50. He’s tired. He smokes three packs of Newports a day.”

Instead, Mr. King would take time to paint a full picture of Greg’s personality; his traits; and his surroundings. By the time you figure out Greg is actually a 50 year old chain smoker with poor health, you’re actually walking in Greg’s shoes! You become a part of Greg’s life. You’re drawn into the story.

Scenery and immersion are key tools in drawing your audience into the story. Sometimes, the best way to work on mastering these tools is to simply describe your current surroundings. Try it out today. In fact, work on it for the remainder of the week. Paint a picture of your surroundings, even if the scenery is drab.

By the way, did you guess that my day job is as a construction worker, or did you cheat and look at the photo? Gotcha…

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