Writing setting descriptions has always been a problem for me. I’m great at creating dialogue and keeping the action moving, but as far as the reader knows, the action is taking place in a vacuum devoid of color or texture. Maybe I spent so many years learning about not bogging your story down with pages and pages of description that I’ve unintentionally gone in the complete opposite direction.
So, I write dialogue and action first. When I reread it, I note places where a little more description of the surroundings are necessary and then I fill it in. But I can never imagine a particular space in my mind. I can’t imagine what a mansion looks like inside because I’ve never set foot in one. I’m not sure what a drawing-room looks like because it’s not a common space in homes of my lifetime. You would think I might have come up with a solution to this problem before now, but a couple of days ago, it hit me.
Maybe it would be helpful to write about a Charleston garden if I was LOOKING at one. Short of peering over someone’s privacy fence, I pulled out my books on historic Charleston homes. Not only do the books have amazing pictures of the homes, but also some of the gardens. What makes this even better is the author notes what flowers are in some of the pictures. What easier way is there for a non-native to know what kind of flowers are the most commonly planted here? I’m from the Midwest. I don’t know what types of flowers are native to the South. I’d never heard of a crepe myrtle until I moved here. In fact, now that I see it spelled out in this photograph, I’m 99% certain I spelled it wrong in the migraine post. Although, when I Google it, I see it spelled both ways, so maybe I’m in the clear.
Better still are the pictures of dining and drawing rooms in these books. I’ve taken museum house tours, but taking photographs inside the homes is a great way to get yourself hauled off to jail in one of those “and throw away the keys” kind of way. “No officer, it’s OK because I’m writing a book!”
It’s difficult to remember details from the tours that will make my story feel authentic. The tours move along at a brisk pace, so taking time to make notes would not be appreciated. “Wait…I just need 20 minutes to sketch this room down to the last piece of crown molding.” Now I’m on the sidewalk, waiting for my husband to finish the tour by himself because I’m one of those trouble makers.
Now I’ve got two pictures of gardens I love and the creative part of me is finding a way to mix my favorite parts of both of them into one amazing imaginary garden!
Word Count: 3,873