As writers, we have a rich selection of words we can use to set a mood; an emotion; a moment. The art of good writing (and the joy of good reading) takes us right in to a time and and a place – and sets the mood of the moment – without telling us.
There’s a scene in the novel I’m editing (A Bed of Brambles – the sequel to A Bed of Barley Straw) where the hero (Alexander) is sitting above cliffs, recovering from the hurt of an emotional upset, and being soothed by the landscape around him. So, that’s me telling you what’s happening.
Amidst her pleas of “Show us!” My editor queried my choice of words in this scene – “would he be calmed by the waves crashing against the rocks?”
Good point; crashing and rocks are hard, angry words. How about “calmed by the waves washing across the pebbles on the beach?”
Here’s one picture of the landscape, similar to that which I’m seeing when I’m writing the scene:
It is angry isn’t it? The waves are crashing against the rocks. It’s moody, and melancholy; in turmoil. Blacks and greys and an unsettled sea – all very Poldark! Passionate, oh Lord, there’s all sorts of angsty words I could use (and a risk of becoming clichéd)
Here it is in sunnier mood:
Now I’m uplifted. The sun warming the cliff-face, ripples on the grey-green water… and I could talk about the clouds, but I mustn’t overdo it. I’m falling into that cliché trap again (frothy and fluffy, the ocean tumbling over the rocks).
The same coastline, different angle – let’s do serene:
I’ll let you chose your own words, I’m not sure Alexander is ever quite this peaceful, still, enticing. Oh, hang on, he is enticing, just not in such a clean way 😉
It’s a maze and a labyrinth, feeling your way to the right words. And that’s before I’ve even told you how he’s sitting on the bench… Is he leaning forward with his head in his hands? Is he lounging back against the salt-bleached wood with his long legs stretched out in front of him…
It’s a mood, a moment in the novel. It’s why editing fries your brain.