Atmospheric

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:

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DSCF1829

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.

 


COMMENTS

  • Carolynnwith2Ns

    January 12, 2016

    Reply

    You are often blessed with a beautiful sky. How heavenly.

    • donnaeve

      January 12, 2016

      Reply

      Dayum. That comment read like a Fortune Cookie. Any other “predictions?”

      🙂

      • Carolynnwith2Ns

        January 13, 2016

        Reply

        I am the queen of fortune cookie quips. Heart-felt words even if they do sound schmallcy. I make up words too:)

      • donnaeve

        January 13, 2016

        Reply

        You’re better at it than me! Your comments over on JR’s blog crack me up.

  • Colin

    January 12, 2016

    Reply

    Nice pictures, Donna. I know what you mean about describing scenes. The books that frustrate me most are ones where I just cannot picture what the author’s trying to describe. It takes a lot of practice to get that “telepathy” (as Stephen King calls it) to work. There’s a give-and-take between how much detail you provide, and how much you can reasonably expect your reader to fill in. Does it matter what shade of pink the ribbon is, or whether the branches are bare and claw-like, or they still have some remnant leaves, or do you need to get your color chart out and give every hue and shade? I know it’s a skill I’m still working on.

    • donnaeve

      January 12, 2016

      Reply

      Funny you should mention those branches…as I was working on the WIP today I wrote “branches like arthritic fingers…” (who knows if it will stay but that’s rather “fresh,” don’t you think?)

      Yes, a definite balancing act. I’ve yet to really learn how to smooth out a description and have it slide gracefully into the story and out again without sounding boring – to me anyway. The learning never ends.

  • Diane

    January 13, 2016

    Reply

    Did y’all see the moon last night? A wee bit north of Donn and Colin at least, it was a magnificent, CLEAR sky, and the sliver of moon was gorgeously evocative.

    Also, why do we have to wait till November to meet Dixie?

    Also, why aren’t we all together having hot cocoa? Gossamer was nestling on me last night and I just hated to get up, but I had to – Penelope was outside, and it was time for her to come in.

    I wanna have each of you over for a writers’ group meeting. Writers’ group meetings at my house tend to be raucous, joyous affairs with a lot of good food …

    • donnaeve

      January 13, 2016

      Reply

      On my drive home from Mom’s house Monday (I go to Raleigh every Monday to spend the day with her), that sliver of a moon faced me. It’s truly a wonder I don’t have a wreck sometimes, b/c my eyes are on the sky more than the road on evenings like that.

      It was dusk, the sun had gone down but still cast this very orange rim across the stretch of horizon. It graduated to a lighter orange melting into a pale blue and finally merging into this deep, brilliant blue, so sharp and colorful, it didn’t look real. And there, dead center of that blue was a fingernail moon. I mean it was stunning!

      As to that November publication date, turns out Kensington publishes about 500 books a year, and it’s wonderful to know mine will be one of them. It’s in the pipeline, with all the rest…and it’s hard to be patient!

      I have seen the cover – and there’s a tweak to be made, and then I’m going to share. I have to admit, I got a little emotional. Kensington does stellar work on covers.

      Hot cocoa with you, Gossie and Pennie Poo (see, I’ve given them nicknames already) would be DIVINE. A writer’s group meeting would be DIVINE, wouldn’t it?

      • Diane

        January 13, 2016

        Reply

        I await your cover in the happiest anticipation.

        And today I had some sad … well, anticipation, I suppose. As we continue to watch my stepfather suffer.

        And the imagery in these comments – y’all got me blogging. Complete with egregious pictures, and even some music, though that may not be quite to all tastes. Came up with a bit of an evocation on late winter’s day sunlight …

      • Diane

        January 13, 2016

        Reply

        Oh, and – give them all the nicknames you like (Penny often gets called Poops, so you’re not far off). They have enormous collections, each of them, of nicknames and doggerel poems I blather at them and little songs to encourage best behavior …

        All my pets have LOTS of names to answer to; must be why they so seldom answer to my will.

      • donnaeve

        January 14, 2016

        Reply

        I can’t wait to show the cover! It’s lovely…very eye catching IMO.

        You know, I was going to blog about my “blog writing voice” When I read over the posts, they sound so darn BLAND. So, if anything I say out here strikes you into a writing mode, HALLELUJAH and can I get an AMEN!

        I’m so sorry to hear about your step-father’s suffering. It is the hardest of hard things to do to watch a family member go through something and there’s nothing we can do except hold their hands, and maybe give them a few words of comfort.

        All my little ones have nicknames too! Back when Bella and Kiwi were here, Bella was Bella Boo, Puppy, Bitty Butt, and on an on. Kiwi was Kifi, PeePee, FleaFlea and on and on. Now Mister is Little Dog, the Bundle, Soldier Boy, etc.

        I love giving them those “pet” names!

  • Craig

    January 13, 2016

    Reply

    The best analogy between writing and pictures is from back when film was still used. A writer was one who not only could frame a picture to be taken but also commanded the dark room. There they could manipulate a negative into something more than just a still life. They could give it a soul. Look at Clive Butcher or Ansel Adams.

    It is tougher now, in these days that technology makes easier. You buy a bigger memory card and snap up two or three hundred pictures in a day. Then you pick out the best dozen of those.

    It is tougher also because higher end cameras are more selective. If you are a portrait taker you buy a Nikon. Action shots belong to Canon; Olympus and Pentax are good for landscapes.

    Some Photoshop programs can do neat things but the exploration of those things take a huge investment in time and frustration. You still need to have the right camera take the picture.

    This translates into writing style. It takes an investment of time and frustration to build a certain style. Like Photoshop you have to wait while it does it thing to see if it can fly or not.

    It is nice to find someone who is aware enough to find such nice pictures while walking the dog on a cold night. Most don’t pay that much attention or think the world is waiting for them when they pick up the camera. The world doesn’t wait you you need to be ready to be amenable to its whims.

    I think I would expand the arthritic branches into some like “the desiccated winter branches looked arthritic against the sunset.”

    • donnaeve

      January 14, 2016

      Reply

      My husband and I were talking cameras the other day and I LOVE that you offered up which are best for taking certain shots. For me, it would be a tossup between the ones for landscapes or action – I get so frustrated when I’m trying to catch random shots of Little Dog, or my grandkids – I like to just take the pics without all the posing. So, I’ll grab the camera to get a particular shot without telling them and by the time the thing adjusts, focuses and I press the button, I’ve missed it.

      And yes, comparing picture taking to writing isn’t as accurate with today’s technology as it would have been back in the day of darkroom development, etc. I actually took a class (in high school) as part of a Graphic Arts curriculum, and played around with photography where I took pics and then developed them in a dark room. I loved the smell of the solution, and more than that, was watching the pictures slowly develop. I also did silk-screening. Loved both.

      And to your point about the world around us – I spend more time looking at that than I do people. I find people watching fascinating too, but I worry I’ll appear weird – or rude. And besides, nature never disappoints me. 🙂

      I love the sentence!

      • Craig

        January 14, 2016

        Reply

        In case it is the question you were afraid to ask:

        All of the calendar pictures were taken with a Canon EOS Rebel T3i with a Canon EF-S 18-135 mm lens.

        We had tried a Nikon but three of them froze up when trying to take action shots. That’s right. When the first one froze we took it back and they replaced it. The second one spent four months in Japan while they “fixed” it. Then it did it again and was replaced only to have the third do it too.

      • donnaeve

        January 14, 2016

        Reply

        I KNEW those pics were taken by you or Kathy! Ha! I told my husband…”I think they took these pics.”

        They are even more lovely and special now that that has been confirmed!

        I will steer clear of Nikon. 😉

  • Lilac Shoshani

    January 13, 2016

    Reply

    Good descriptions can make the story come to life and become more believable to the readers. The more senses involved, the better. I love what you do with the pictures of the sunset that you take. What a creative and great exercise, my friend! 🙂

    • donnaeve

      January 14, 2016

      Reply

      Thank you Lilac! It’s almost like stress relief too. I see something (sunrise/sunset, etc) that I think is pretty, and it’s like “aahhhh.” (insert big sigh!)

      And yes, the more senses the better. I use them all. My struggles are typically figuring out a new way to share them. 🙂


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