I am a paranormal romance writer, so I dabble in a fair bit of magic. Yet, it is not the literal kind of magic I’m talking about today, because all writers dabble in a kind of magic -the magic of making the mundane in something readable and engaging.
So much of writing involves descriptions of the potentially very boring. From a description of a house or someone’s paisley carpet to the drudgery of walking down a shopping aisle – it is important to build the scene for your characters, the magic is making what is ordinary still interesting to read.
Showing and not telling is mantra often repeated by writers, but how is it done? Let me show you…I am currently sitting in a large draughty gymnasium on a Saturday afternoon, whilst my child does sport. This gymnasium is a pretty worn, bog standard suburban community centre.
There, I’ve “described” it at least superficially, and you’ve probably got a little bit of a picture in your mind, but… there’s no magic in that is there? Not really.
To really take a reader into the scene, you need to consider three things;1. What it looks like – lighting, structure, surfaces.
2. What it smells like – this is so often neglected by authors, but really packs a punch when used well!
3. What it feels like: this is important both physically (temperature etc) and emotionally.Details of the mundane however, should never be dumped in a single paragraph – that would be boring. The reader should ideally discover these things as the character does. A character noticing the scratched wooden floor, or the smell of something nasty in the air as she passes will quickly pique a reader’s interest.
So here is a gymnasium scene:
She sat on the hard pine bench, the bones in her butt beginning to throb
Damn, .The bleak fluroescent lighting of the gymnasium made her eyes water, and not a soul graced the scratched parquetry basketball courts – at least not a soul she could see, anyway.
She wanted to leave. She wanted to go home, but she couldn’t. So she’d just have to patient and breathe the faint unsanitary stink of old sweat and feet left by the countless sportmen over the years a little bit longer. Yes, she would wait, wait until it was over…