By JanAlyce.Avery On Oct 1 2011, 9:00 am
Writers are not computers, all creating via the same mental "apps". We are individuals and as individuals, we get things from our brain to the word processing file in different ways.
My way is to create a movie in my mind…and then describe it.
A writing session for me usually starts with my stretching out on my bed and closing my eyes. Then I start visualizing.
For example, in a book I'm working on, "A Payment of Women", I need to describe, in print, the arrival of a troop of medieval mercenaries at a remote English valley. But before I start typing, I need to "see" what this "scene" actually looks like.
Eyes closed. So….how big a valley? Oriented how? East, west, north, south? I knew that the far end of the valley would be to the west, since a sea cliff along the west coast forms an integral part of my story, so the soldiers would be entering from the east. I needed to "see" the valley from the viewpoint of those soldiers (a few paragraphs prior, I'd been "seeing" it from the viewpoint of the inhabitants) so to make sure I didn't confuse the two, I wanted to know where everything was. On what side of the valley was the keep? On what side some woods where the women who live in this valley initially hid? What kind of woods? Where were the fields, the cottages?
When the soldiers enter, are they in a loose mass, or in some kind of formation? Which works better for the story? (There's actually a point where this does make a difference.) How do they first see the women? From a distance? From close up? What do the women do?
I started "framing shots" in my mind. Angle from the west. Angle from the east. Closeup on the troop's leaders. Long shot on what the troop was seeing, from their POV. Who was moving where? Who was saying what….and when? What did it sound like when they said it? Angry? Thoughtful? Bewildered?
When I got this section of my "movie" the way I wanted in my mind, I sat down at the computer and basically described it. (I've added a few explanatory notes in brackets.)
Ramsey, as the troop cleared the wood, looked about him. Rynmuth was a shallow valley, [a valley gives a feeling of more isolation and remoteness than flat land] perhaps wide enough to hold a dozen large fields, ringed by thick woodland except at the far end, where the land sloped upward abruptly to what must be the cliffs overlooking the sea. To his left, a low tower surrounded by a timber-fenced bailey marked the keep, while below and around it spread a sprinkling of thatched huts.
“A peaceful prospect,” said Father Aldus. He was a spare young man with a thoughtful, pale face, the hair around his tonsure a rich chestnut. His mule was a long-striding beast and had ably kept up with Ramsey’s stallion on the long journey from Taunton; he reined it in now and, shielding his eyes from the brightness of the sun, [these men are facing west and it's late afternoon so the sun would indeed be in his eyes] asked, “But where are the people?”
As though in answer, figures appeared from the woods above the keep, moving to stand silent and watchful, figures in long gowns covered with sleeveless tunics, their heads covered by veils.
“Women,” said Audun softly. He rode just behind Ramsey and the priest, flanked by Falco and Stephen, with the rest of the troop following on foot in two ranks. “I don’t see a man among them. Women only, as the old knight said.”
“And all of them armed,” added Stephen.
Falco gave a short, contemptuous laugh. “With sharpened sticks. Half a dozen armed men could cut them all down.”
“Yet there they stand, ready to fight.” Ramsey turned in the saddle. “Men! We are about to pass in review. Eyes to the front and ranks steady!” [A bit farther on, I have these men—understandably—trying to look around at the women, who are by then following them, an act emphasized by their having to be called back into formation. Which is why I had the formation in the first place.]
He touched spur to his chestnut and the troop moved forward in response.
The women did not move. A few had children sheltering in their skirts, [A visual that conveys emotion, both of the children being scared and the women being protective; in a movie, you always try to "show" instead of "tell"] but most stood in groups of two or three, watching in silence.
“No greeting? No cheers of welcome?” Falco’s hard-mouthed gray danced sideways. [Another "visual" that reveals a bit about Falco.] "Are they mute?”
“No,” said the priest gently. “Can you not see, my son? They are weeping.”
Ramsey, looking, saw that the priest spoke the truth. The slight figures on the hill were covering their faces with their hands, some sinking to their knees, their heads bent, others lifting tear-stained eyes towards the sky, their lips moving. [Again, since I'm "watching" a movie, emotions are revealed as much by action as dialogue.]
“How much these women must have suffered,” continued Father Aldus, “to react so to the arrival of help. And what courage they must have, who have so long endured such fear!”
“Amen,” said Stephen, and Ramsey echoed the thought silently.
Now, I have no idea if this is the way other writers work. I'd be interested in hearing from my fellow Samhain authors. But for me, it's just the way my mind operates. "Movie" first—complete with sets, costumes, actions, facial expressions, even tone of voice—and words on paper afterwords.
Got to go; I have another "scene" to block out. Where's my director's chair?
Jan Alyce Avery is the author of the Samhain Publishing title "Shadowed Knight." For more information, excerpts, fan response and reviews, go to www.janalyceavery.com