Monday, June 6, 2011

June Blog Chain: Setting the Scene

I'm near the beginning of the AW blog chain this month. I'm smacked for time right now so will steal from my work in progress instead of writing something new. This story is still in first draft so not sure where this bit will be used, or even if it will make it through to the second draft. 

This month's prompt: Setting the Scene
Write a location description, and make us feel as if we are there. No dialogue, no introductory comments, just a location. We're the tourists, you're the guide.
     Lindsay stepped out of the Jeep, looking around the clearing. A circular drive surrounded by tall pines framed the lodge. She’d seen a few pictures of it online, from the official website and some random photos posted by visitors, but being here in person was almost overwhelming.
     She thought this must be what Swiss chalets looked like, two stories tall, about 100 feet long, built of rough-textured whole cedar logs. The main entrance, a tall wooden double-door archway framed in colorful square tiles, was up a few steps in the middle of a wide porch that seemed to wrap around the left side.
     To the right she could see the driveway branched off to a portico, the pillars stretching up to the roof at the second story. Large plate glass windows punctuated the porch at regular intervals. The peaked roof was cedar shake, with deep eaves hanging over the second floor windows fitted with balconies. 
     The first-floor tour revealed more of what she had envisioned from the outside, refined opulence masquerading as a rugged adventurer’s lodge. Three different sitting rooms, a library, dining room, media room -- she followed Braden from place to place, thinking there should be a map. The impression was of a Ralph Lauren home furnishings catalog: log furniture with oiled burgundy leather seats, thick wool rugs with bright geometric patterns placed just so on the gleaming wide plank floors, fireplaces in nearly every room, and paintings that would merit a closer look later all worked together to form the perfect image.
     In the foyer, the staircase rose elegantly to the second floor, spreading wider as they ascended the carpeted treads. Lindsay felt her mouth gaping open, agog at her new surroundings, and firmly pressed her lips together. What a rube. I haven’t been anywhere like this since Stacia’s wedding at that Beverly Hills hotel.
Reading this passage after posting it here makes my eyes glaze over. Too many details. I want to show how Lindsay is awed by the rustic grandeur of the lodge, and convey how much money was spent on it, but I don't think I accomplished those goals here. Good thing this is just a rough draft! I'll have time to clean it up later. Your suggestions welcome. 

And please visit the other players in this month's blog chain. They should all have their posts up by the end of June. 
orion_mk3 - (link to this month's post)
juniper - you are here now!
LadyMage - (link to this month's post)
dolores haze - (link to this month's post)
jkellerford - (link to this month's post)
Ralph Pines - (link to this month's post)
TheMindKiller - (link to this month's post)
AuburnAssassin - (link to this month's post)
pezie - (link to this month's post)
WildScribe - (link to this month's post)
Inkstrokes - (link to this month's post)
Irissel - (link to this month's post)
Guardian - (link to this month's post)
Lyra Jean - (link to this month's post)
egoodlett - (link to this month's post)
cwachob - (link to this month's post)


  1. It does feel like she is out of place and more critical than awed, but I seen places like this and it felt real to me.

    Great job.

  2. I'll be honest, I was expecting an "Obvious exits are NORTH, SOUTH, and DENNIS." Having a description like text adventure isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you're looking for cuts I can suggest a few:

    -Leave out the entrance and side-porch descriptions. You can slip those in if action ever shifts to the porch or entrance.

    -Describe the plate glass and side drive from inside the chalet in place of the list of various room types.

  3. Yeah, it feels dry to me too. The set up for the story is that she's moved to this new place and will now be running the lodge. This is her first glimpse of it - she agreed to it sight unseen.

    Needs work. Next draft for that!

  4. I think you did a good job, I definitely felt like I should be wearing my ski sweater and sitting by the fireplace before you ever said the world fireplace! For the exercise, I think it works, but when you do revisions, I think you could cut some areas. The 4th paragraph feels a bit repetitive, but I loved the line, "The impression was of a Ralph Lauren home furnishings catalog". I've stayed in a lodge like this in Park City, Utah. :)

  5. Great description of the building. I could feel the character's amazement. Quite good for a first draft, I'll say.

  6. I don't know about dry... I got that she was awed. Hell, I was awed! I want to go there. It's a short piece so I don't think the description was too much.

  7. We get a clear and detailed picture of the place but, as others said and as you noted yourself, is a clear picture what the story needs?

    Personally - and this is why this blog chain is especially interesting for me - descriptions aren't my forte. Just wanted to say it so you can weigh my comment appropriately.

    I like to discover through the action. So, for the type of reader that I am, the list of features is a bit long. I need for her to move through the space and actively discover it instead of the narrator passively describing it.
    The only moment when she moves (within the description itself) is when you say "she followed Braden from place to place, thinking there should be a map". I think your description would be a lot stronger if there were more of these sentences.

    That would be my suggestion. ;)
    Good and strong first draft though: it's easier to start from a clear picture and erase some details than to build on void.

  8. The only thing that took me out of the writing was the Ralph Lauren catalog. I know he's into fashion or something but not much else. Also, while I know practically anything can date a piece if you are worried about such things, this would be it. Maybe just remove the catalog reference but keep the actual description.

    Otherwise I loved it. It actually made me think of all those movies where they go to the upscale ski lodges.

  9. I agree with what you said about feeling like your eyes were glazing over with all the details. You would probably have to cut some or spread them out more if you wanted to include this in an actual story, but it works well for the prompt.

  10. I think this is great for a 1st draft. Always good to get your thoughts and ideas out there first and let them percolate. I think what would help this piece to be stronger would be to give us more of Linday's direct response. Use words like 'awe' and 'stunned'. Were there flower boxes on the windows. Was her mouth opened wide? What were her feelings as she brushed the smoothed logs with her fingers? What did it smell like inside? Did sunlight stream through the plate glass? Have her interact more with the scenery. Maybe have her turning in awe, looking up at the massiveness and have her bump into a table (or a handsome man) :) Are there people on the staircase to the second floor? Otherwise, I did get a feeling of grandness and opulence. Great first draft!

  11. I liked the details, but I agree that you could cut some of the side descriptions. For example, I loved the first paragraph, "She thought this must be what Swiss chalets looked like" etc. Gives us a good image of the place.
    But then you add:

    To the right she could see the driveway branched off to a portico, the pillars stretching up to the roof at the second story. Large plate glass windows punctuated the porch at regular intervals. The peaked roof was cedar shake, with deep eaves hanging over the second floor windows fitted with balconies.

    Not sure we need this too, all right up front? Maybe you could explain this detail later, as she's exploring the place further.

    I liked the Ralph Lauren catalog line, I'd keep that one. And agreed with jennykellerford, maybe if you show her reaction to the place, her thoughts, that would help. As well as using some of her other senses to describe it. :)

  12. I think some sensory details would help liven it up a bit: the rich scent of pine and leather, the satiny texture of an expensive fabric, that sort of thing. It's a very competent description. I see the building very clearly, I think adding the sensory details would be more immersive. I wouldn't just see it; I'd feel like I was there.

  13. Well, no matter what you cut, I really liked this bit: "... and paintings that would merit a closer look later ..." That's what I like, descriptions that go beyond pure description and bring in a relatable experience to invoke a mood. It also very clearly implies that she's overwhelmed when you say it'll have to wait for later.

  14. I tend to skim description, anyway, going straight for dialog and action. I don't much like writing long descriptions, either. Fortunately in YA it's best to keep these things short, using a few well-placed details and analogies.