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describing a town in motion

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devora, Nov 8, 2014.

  1. Devora

    Devora Sage

    I've hit a part in my WIP where i'm too intimidated to write.

    My MC is walking through his hometown to go back to his house, but on the way he looks at the condition of the town and people. the town is going through a financial down-turn because of an ongoing war and the road blockades limiting import/export.

    I need some advice on how to properly describe a town that is being "alive", so to speak.
  2. johnsonjoshuak

    johnsonjoshuak Troubadour

    Personally, if the town was in a state of down-turn I might use the "MC saw the baker setting out stale bread. The war had left many of the citizens too poor to buy fresh goods."

    Contrasting how the town used to be, before the war, with its current state. Maybe tie it in emotionally with the MC with memories or thoughts of friends lost in war?
  3. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

    I agree - tie the observation in with your character's emotions and purposes as much as you can. Does the character know what he's looking for? Direct the description as he looks at things. (Maybe he's always observed that activity at the docks is key, so that's what he's looking for, and then you can centre the description there and feather it out as he notices more.) Or does a particular trade/event/element have a strong resonance for him? (Maybe as a child he loved to press his nose against the shining, clear window of the baker's crowded shop, but now the shop is empty and the window is dirty.)

    Let your character drive the "camera", and see if that helps.
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    There are two factors that go into something like this.

    First, what are you trying to accomplish with the descriptions? Obviously you want to show the reader something about the town, but what is it? This can help you determine your strategy/approach. Are you trying to show a slice of life in the town? Are you trying to show the politics and gossip? Are you trying to show it all?

    Also, showing all these things doesn't need to involve a stroll through the town. You can show them by having the character visit a key place or places in town, a general store, a diner, a hardware store, a movie theater etc. Any place where you can see people interacting and have the character overhear or engage in conversation can fit the bill of showing what a small town is like without having the character stroll through town.

    Second, how do the descriptions reflect the internal mental state of your character? Echoing a bit of what cupiscent said, your character is the thing that drives the camera. The reader sees the town through the eyes of the character. The mental state of the character will determine what gets noticed and how it gets described.

    If your character is pining after lost love, they may be noticing places and things that relate to that, like the general store where they first met. OR they may notice two people who are smooching.

    If your character is in a good mood they may describe the new Starbucks as a mark of progress, that the town is marching towards the future. If they're in a bad mood they may describe it as a corporate cancer eating away at the town's foundations.

    Any way, that's how I approach something like this. It doesn't require a lot of words, but the approach and the words have to be well chosen.
  5. Vilya

    Vilya Scribe

    This is his hometown, so everything is going to be so personal for him. I think as long as you make the descriptions active it should be very interesting, especially if the reader is already attached to your MC. I have a couple of thoughts. Does the change in the town mirror any of the other changes that might be happening in your book? Is there a way to tie this to how your character might be changing? Does the condition of the town change your MC at all?

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