Welcome to the last part of a three-part series on description! If you are just getting on board right now, you need not read the first two parts to understand this one, but you can, of course, find the other two parts on my blog. The introduction (posted on Sunday evening) can be found at this link here. The first post (posted Monday) can be found at this link here. The second post (posted Tuesday) can be found at this link here. That about covers all the posts and we shall begin without another moment to waste!
The last item on the list of the three large categories that I would talk about when describing environment is Nature & Terrain. I realize how excruciatingly broad this can be, but I much prefer it that way so that the blog post can not only relate to writers of literary fiction, but as well as fantasy writers and other genres that may have a different nature and terrain as literary fiction writers.
How important is the nature and the terrain to our story?
That will depend, yes, on the content in your story. There are stories of mine that I’ve written where I rely heavily on the nature around my characters, but there are some well it will do you good to describe it a little bit and leave it there. But I want to talk about those nature-heavy stories here. I want to talk about those stories that will describe the nature around the characters more than once because it won’t just be there for the decoration, but because it serves so much of a purpose that it almost seems to be its own character.
I am rather obsessed with mountains. Almost every story that I write that takes place in nature––meaning not a city or an urban area––has mountains. I don’t seem to write about flat areas; I’m too in love with mountains and valleys. So I will go on for a while describing the mountains, giving them names, making up false myths in real religions about them, etc. (I believe this comes from an infatuation with the Misty Mountains).
But what purpose do these mountains serve to the story? We are looking for practicality, right?
I mean that’s great that I can go on for pages describing a specific mountain range and talking about its real history while making up its fictional history, but at some point that has to mean something to my character or to the story itself. It can’t just be a huge paragraph going into serious depths about the mountain, but then never mentions the mountains again. It is like in yesterday’s post how I discussed describing places in thorough detail without them being important can be a bit too distracting and confusing.
The best writer that I have read that can describe nature seamlessly, especially since it’s fictional, is J.R.R. Tolkien. In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, he brings this world to life. That serves many different purposes. First, it makes it more believable, which I believe I’ve repeated enough times. Description will make the world jump off of the page and avoid having your characters live their lives in a white (or black) void. Secondly, the description of the elements propels the story forwards.
The descriptions you add to certain places are either going to foreshadow to your reader problems or solutions that are going to be given by whatever you have described. The Misty Mountains in The Hobbit become rock-fighting giants in the middle of the storm. But is that just for a fun fact? No, it comes to create problems for our main characters. The description is so rich and vivid that you remember it when it comes time for that element to become a problem. The nature that is introduced in the story sets the scene for the story that is going to take place in it, but it also tells of what may happen or hints towards its larger role later down the line.
In a story where the nature around the character is important, the descriptions of that nature help to propel it forward. By not only creating a sense of believability to the story, as well as creating an imagery that sucks the reader into it, it can also be used as plot device for metaphors for what may happen in the story, it can be used for foreshadowing, and it could also be used as its own character. The nature described can lead the character to do something, it can teach the character something.
The descriptions of the environment create a dynamic scene and a dynamic story. They are one gear, but a crucial gear, to the working of the whole machinery of the scene.
Well this brings us to the end of the description series! Thank you so much for having read all the way through, and a bit thanks to all of those who have stuck with it from the beginning. It means a lot to me that people out there care what I have to think haha.
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TAKE NOTE: The blog is being changed over to a new hosting website, so by the next blog post, we will have a new website and everything for the blog to be on! I’m very excited about it and I hope to see all of you there. Thank you for the wonderful times on WordPress and I will see you all on the new blog.
Take care and have a wonderful evening,
Jacob S. Tucker