Getting Comfortable Indoors

In Editing Lessons #3b I admitted that one of the areas I had to improve on was being more descriptive in scenes. I seldom described a scene – because I didn’t know myself what the scene looked like; no surprise I I couldn’t describe it to my reader. I was too caught up in the plot moving forward that I forgot the where is also valuable in creating a rich story.

So for today’s blog I spent 20 minutes coming up with prompters that would help in constructing a scene (or location) in the writer’s eye.Or more precisely, in all of the writer’s senses. (In this post I am restricting myself to describing an indoor environment, hence the title of the blog). Walking into a room, what can you perceive…

What do you see? (Visual)

  1. Does the room have windows? How big and what type of glass, frosted or transparent? Tinted? Double-glazed?
  2. What time of day is it?
  3. What can you see out of the windows?
  4. What are the light sources in the room? Are they harsh or soft? Revealing or hiding anything in particular?
  5. Are there shadows? Do the shadows conceal anything?
  6. What types of furnishings are in the room? Is the room cluttered or spartan?
  7. What does the rooms appearance and use say about its purpose?
  8. Are the items new or used? What do the furnishing choices and condition tell us about the owner? What other items are in the room? Expensive tastes?
  9. Is it messy or clean? Is there dust? Water damage? Dirt? Are things well-maintained, or tacked together with sticky tape and a prayer?
  10. Are some furnishings or items in contrast to the rest of the room?
  11. Is the room aesthetically pleasing? What are the walls made of? Colour? Covering? What are the furnishings made of? Floor coverings? Fittings?

What do you smell?

  1. Is it antiseptically clean? Lived in? Musty? Moldy? Fresh? Fragrant?
  2. Does the smell tell us about who is/has been in the room (perfume, cologne. body odor)?
  3. Does it tell us about the rooms’ occupants behaviours or habits (cigars, grease, cats)?
  4. Do the belongings in the room smell new?
  5. Does the smell tell us how long it has been since someone was in the room? Strong hint of perfume or stench of spoiled food?
  6. Does the smell tell us what has been happening in the room: cordite, glue, blood?
  7. Does the smell of the room make the character feel hungry or sick?

What do you hear? (Sound)

  1. Do sounds permeate from surrounding rooms / outside?
  2. What kinds of sounds? Constant, intermittent or occasional noises? e.g. yelling, the methodical banging of a blacksmith, birds chirping, waves crashing.
  3. Does the room absorb sound or cause it to echo.
  4. What is making noise inside the room? The steady click of a clock, the intermittent whir of a hard drive?
  5. Does walking around the room make noise? A crunch of dirt or squeak of lino.

What do you feel? (Touch)

  1. Is the room cold or warm in temperature? Can you feel the warmth of the sun or fire?
  2. Is there a discernible airflow? From where?
  3. How do different surfaces in the room feel?
  4. Are the furnishings comfortable? Does the desk have sharp edges or splinters? Is the seat plush or like riding a camel?

What can you Taste?

  1. Is there something so unusual about the room that you can taste it? Garlic? The metallic taste of blood?

The Sixth Sense

  1. Does the room feel evil or welcoming?
  2. Does it remind the character of something?
  3. Does it bore them or excite them?

Conceptual/Dimensional aspects

  1. Placement: Is the room a basement, ground floor or fortieth floor?
  2. How big is the room? Is it spacious or cramped?
  3. What other doors are there and where do they lead?
  4. Are others in the room? Are there insects, rodents or other animals?
  5. Where are the relevant items located inside the room?

Note that you wouldn’t put all of these into the final text, or even answer all of them. Some will be more applicable, depending on stories, but it is important for the author to know what a scene or location looks like.

Got any other great ones I can add to the list?

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