Session #2 Assignment – Scene with Setting Description

The Assignment:  In 500 words or less, write a scene in which you describe the setting you’ve chosen for your story.

I focused most of the effort on the setting and didn’t include enough character description — I think since I included the character Mollie interacting with the setting, the instructor expected more about her.

Also I guess I have to end my love affair with long (endless) sentences.  I don’t want to scare the instructor, but I am tempted to send her some of my best run-on sentences from my blog.  Although her TAME YOUR SENTENCE LENGTH comment is well-placed in my submission, she ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Any feedback you have on the original submission or instructor’s feedback is welcome!

My Submission:

Dawn light filtering through the cabin’s southeast window nudged Mollie out of deep sleep.  She woke with a headache and the dim memory of pulling off her boots, then falling exhausted and freezing into the soft embrace of a thick feather bed.   She was now too warm, which was causing the dull thud behind her eyes.  She kicked off the smothering cocoon of flannel and down that she had somehow trapped herself in, and got out of bed.

Her bare feet welcomed the cold floor, bare planks of old reclaimed barn wood laid in a herringbone pattern throughout the log cabin.  Mollie padded to the front door of the cabin and noticed with delight a tray of breakfast goodies set on a table just inside the door.  Bless that Lucy, Mollie thought, as she poured steaming black coffee into a large mug and took a bite of a warm applesauce muffin.  She opened the front door of the cabin and stepped out into the morning. 

Early sunlight filtered through the tall pines walling the east end of a large, natural clearing, a site her grandfather had discovered on a vacation hunting trip in the Sierra Nevada 60 years prior.  He saw it as the perfect location for his private ranch far from the madness of Hollywood, and the fulfillment of his dream of a stable, loving home for his “lost lads”, the orphaned or otherwise disadvantaged kids that tugged at his heart during visits with his young fans.

The clearing was bordered on the west, north and east by dense forests of pine, fir, cedar, and an occasional maple and Black Oak.  To the south was a nearly treeless expanse of rolling meadow, perfect for the large pastures that would eventually house upward of 100 head of horses during the ranch’s movie location heyday. 

The dank mist that had chilled Mollie to the bone the night before had settled into a light frost shimmering on the carpet of pine needles that covered the paths between the log cabins on the north edge of the clearing.  Mollie breathed in the cool air, scented of pine and the wood smoke that she saw drifting from the chimney of the Big House, the sprawling log and stone lodge that overlooked the ranch from the top of a knoll to the west.

Gulping the last of the coffee, Mollie went back inside the cabin to dress.  It was approaching 7:00 a.m. and she needed to get down to the stable.  The horses would be calling for their breakfast.

She hiked south, skirting the perimeter fence of the large arena at the clearing’s center.  As she walked, she noticed several fence rails that broken off from their posts.  Intact rails were trashed by weather and neglect, remnants of once-white paint now gray and peeling.  As Mollie approached the stable area, her concern rose.  The barns were as run-down as the arena.  

She quickened her stride.  Time for a chat with the barn manager.

Instructor’s Critique (her embedded comments are in CAPS)

Carol,

Good writing and good setting work. I like the character and the feel of the story is nearly right. I looked at your summary again and I’m not sure where this comes in the story. Is she worried at this point about the possibility of being in danger? If so, you need to get that in. In fact, whatever the underlying emotion here, you need to include that. But basically, the piece is good. See below for specific feedback. miki

Dawn light filtering through the cabin’s southeast window nudged Mollie out of **A** –RHYTHM– READ THE SENTENCE BOTH WAYS deep sleep. She woke with a headache and the dim memory of pulling off her boots, then falling exhausted and freezing into the soft embrace of a thick feather bed.   She was now too warm, which was causing the dull thud behind her eyes. She kicked off the smothering cocoon of flannel and down that she had somehow trapped herself in, and got out of bed.

Her bare feet welcomed the cold floorING–YOUR RHYTHM IS OFF– , bare planks of old COMMA reclaimed barn wood laid in a herringbone pattern throughout the log cabin. THEN Mollie padded to the front door of the [cabin] FIND ANOTHER WORD BECAUSE OF THE REPEAT and noticed with delight a tray of breakfast goodies set on a table just inside the [door] HOUSE –VARY, VARY, VARY . Bless that Lucy, Mollie thought, as she poured steaming black coffee into a large mug and took a bite of a warm applesauce muffin. STILL MUNCHING COMMA –VARY YOUR SENTENCE STARTS She opened the front door of the cabin and stepped out into the CHILLY? SUNNY? –HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE THE DAY? morning.

Early sunlight filtered through the tall pines walling the east end of a large, natural clearing, a site her grandfather had discovered on a vacation hunting trip in the Sierra Nevada 60 years prior. He saw HE’D SEEN it as the perfect location for his private ranch far from the madness of Hollywood, and the fulfillment of his dream of a stable, loving home for his “lost lads”, COMMA INSIDE QUOTES the orphaned or otherwise disadvantaged kids that WHO–PEOPLE ARE `WHO’ tugged at his heart during visits with his young fans.

The clearing was bordered THIS FEELS AS IF WE’RE COMING BACK TO THE PRESENT on the west, north and east by dense forests of pine, fir, cedar, and an occasional maple and Black Oak WHY CAPS WHEN YOU DON’T CAP THE OTHER TREE NAMES–NO CAPS . To the south was a nearly treeless expanse of rolling meadow, perfect for the large pastures that [would eventually] houseD upward of 100 head of horses during the ranch’s movie location heyday.

The dank mist that had chilled Mollie to the bone the night before had settled into a light frost PERIOD ICE CRYSTALS SHIMMERED shimmering on the carpet of pine needles that covered COVERING the paths between the log cabins on the north edge of the clearing. A SENTENCE STRUCTURE HAS ITS LIMITS Mollie breathed in the cool air, scented of pine and the wood smoke that she saw drifting from the chimney of the Big House, PERIOD –START ANOTHER SENTENCE –TAME YOUR SENTENCE LENGTH the sprawling log and stone lodge that overlooked the ranch from the top of a knoll to the west.

Gulping the last of the coffee, Mollie went back inside the cabin to dress. [It was] AT approaching 7:00 a.m. [and] COMMA she needed to get down to the stable. The horses would be calling for their breakfast.

She HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE HER? `THE YOUNG SOMETHING OR OTHER’ hiked south, skirting the perimeter fence of the large arena at the clearing’s center. As she walked, she noticed several fence rails that HAD broken off from their posts. EVEN Intact rails were trashed by weather and neglect, remnants of once-white paint now gray and peeling. As Mollie approached the stable area, her concern rose. The barns were as run-down RUNDOWN as the arena.

She quickened her stride. Time for a chat with the barn manager. GOOD

7 responses to “Session #2 Assignment – Scene with Setting Description

  1. I may be back to critique the critique later, but I’m on my first cup of coffee, so for now, I will just say that this is exactly the book I imagine you writing. This is downright cinematic- I can SEE this unfold as I read it. I am going to enjoy the heck out of this experience. Thank you for sharing!

    • it’s exactly that way, the story is playing like a movie in my head … for a couple of years it has been snippets of images bouncing around but lately more and more of the story has opened up. storyboarding it helps a lot, i’m using a mind mapping app for that.
      this is way fun. i am waiting for God to drop a bunch of money from the sky so I can do this full time for several months and get it done. 😀

  2. One more thing (thanks to cup of coffee #2): as to the long sentences-

    I love your long long long sentences; they are a defining part of your voice, but they might be a little distracting in advancing the narrative, especially in expository passages, so I suggest letting a character, probably Mollie (as your protagonist) express herself in sentences as long as you like, especially when she is thinking (since that illustrates an aspect of her character,) and abbreviating the length of sentences elsewhere, particularly when you are moving the story forward.

  3. I am much more of a reader than a movie watcher. Words evoke images in my mind’s eye as I read. This happens much more easily when sentences sound in my head as if spoken aloud by a storyteller. Long sentences act like an interrupt for me, “wait, what?” I need commas and shorter sentences for the flow of words to turn into my own version of your movie story. I agree with Carol, a character’s ruminations running on is natural and can flow well at times. I also agree with the instructor that descriptions need a shorter, clearer structure with good rhythm. Perhaps you are writing the screenplay and I am reading the finished film. But I think I am picking nits here, as the whole feel of the scene is quite good and easy to read.

    • My instructor was very clear with her suggested rewrites of my long sentences and so I will be watching for that. Also for the rhythm stuff … this was very good feedback … since I have just been blogging and “speaking” in print with that, this fiction writing requires a bit more discipline … and I guess I can’t make up my own words, either, unless they are spoken by a character … thanks Lindsay!

  4. I, too, feel the cinematic pull with your writing, Carol. I love it. I struggle with long sentences in my writing as well but social media has helped me with that. As much as I hate it, one word and short sentences have become the norm. I don’t love that but it seems that it’s the way readers approach consume writing these days and they become used to it. I bet both you and your instructor will have something to share on this topic as the course progresses. Won’t you?

    I can’t wait to see you getting into dialog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s