This is part two of the discussion on dialogue vs description. Or, a good excuse to share our work with you. Head to Part One.
The descriptive scene.
I have always loved the idea of using the environment or weather to show a characters emotional or psychological state. It is something, that when done well, is truly breathtaking. I know because I’ve read some inspiring examples over the years. Cormac McCarthy is very clever at this device. I’ve got a long way to go before I reach the pinnacle. I’m not even at base camp yet. But I enjoy trying.
by Amanda Saines
The house at number 12 shone in the morning sun. The sound of a surf washed over the backyard as it was carried on an unusual wind down the street. The back door opened letting the wind carry the fresh ocean air into the back of the house.
The top windows were still shut off to the world but a radio was playing somewhere in the depths of the house, the sound muffled behind the closed doors. From behind the curtains her room was lit.
The grass at the foot of a macrocarpa tree was still damp from the night air. The sun had already dried the ground outside of the shade of the large tree. Two steps would be the difference between cold and warm.
She was sitting deep in the large cavernous kitchen at a table, a cup in her hands talking maybe singing.
Then she had moved quickly, quietly, it took him by surprise, suddenly she was there, walking out the back door, a phone in one hand a cup in the other. A fine wisp of steam rose from it.
She sat on a large seat under the tree. Her hair smelt of shampoo, it looked damp at the ends, dryer on the top. A small halo of blond hair had lifted above her head. He reached out his hand to catch it withdrawing it quickly.
Bark in front of him slowly moved, lifting from the tree like an optical illusion. An image formed as slowly as the small insect started stretching out its long thin legs. A stick insect that had blended into the bark was now in flight mode, it scurried around to the other side of the tree. He caught the tail end of it. Any shift in the small microclimate under the tree could make her turn, he couldn’t let that happen. He pulled the small insect towards him, holding it carefully in his hand letting it crawl from one hand to the other and back again, a slow, circular tumble as it tried to escape.
He lifted it to his lips throwing the insect into a panic, it leapt to the grass at his feet. His breath. Had it smelt it or felt it. Could she?
He could step back, blending with the shadows like the stick insect in the tree, but she might hear. Birds and crickets were building in a chorus of chaos each species trying to outdo the other. In the midst of the noise perhaps he could risk taking a step back. He slowly stepped one foot back, his weight carefully held in the thigh of the other leg, he watched the ground where he was about to step and as his foot went down the other occupant appeared in the doorway, a mobile phone to his ear. The occupant spoke and turned walking back inside again.
He stood in the shadows watching her talk on her phone. He could hear her but he couldn’t work out who she was calling and what information she was getting. He wasn’t sure if she was even getting through to anyone. Then she stood and walked inside.
New Plymouth had been a mistake. He already knew the police were involved, and now they were going to learn she was just more curious, not scared. There will be anger, there will be a cost.
He walked down the drive and got in his car and watched the house from across the road, cigarette smoke billowing into the street, as he considered the cost of not saying anything. Having something on someone. He played scenarios out as he watched the house. No one walked down the drive, no one came out onto the street. He threw his cigarette out the car window and turned the engine on.
‘She’s pretty too.’