Setting the scene

June’s writing prompt from the AbsoluteWrite forum is “Write a location description, and make us feel as if we are there. No dialogue, no introductory comments, just a location. We’re the tourists, you’re the guide.”

While I didn’t exactly follow the instructions (yeah, yeah no surprise) I have to credit this along with Book TV’s show Writers Confessions for planting the seed for a new book.

What follows is the raw first steps of a new novel. It is, as always, subject to change over time. No story has ever presented itself to me in its full glory. It morphs, the characters flesh out and change but mostly the initial premise remains intact.

It will be of no big surprise that this is yet another foray into the dark corners of the human mind, my favorite playground.

Oh, how did I break the rules? I do have two lines of dialogue. Ok, not dialogue per se, more monologue and if I remember correctly the rules didn’t state ‘no monologue’ 😉 Oh, and I’m not big on lots of description. I feel that a reader filling in the appropriate gaps paints a much more vivid picture than my meagre English skills allow.

The wind whipped the snow blanketing the peaks into a blinding white curtain. It howled and gnashed leaving reminders of its fury in the very rock of the mountains upon which he stood. It tore at his hair and clothes threatening to upset his balance and send him tumbling into the craggy depths below.

Yet he stood and accepted its wrath. He drank it in. He looked down at the valley nested between the base of the mountains; green and fertile but still small and fragile. Like a colourful ant among the feet of giants. Even the air had a cold sweetness to it.

He knew it was all an illusion. The ‘quiet place’ he had dreamed up to escape. In fact even over the roar of the wind, he could hear their whispers. Though the sun shone cold and pale, the darkness of reality fogged the edges. He stretched his arms wide as if to reach out and touch everything he could see but the hard edge of the cot, the cold dampness of the concrete block pressed into his back.

He tried to stretch further, until it felt like his arms would surely pop out of their sockets, desperate to hold onto the jagged rocks, the ice blue sky, the white of the snow, even the green of the valley below but the grey bled in. The scene faded to small colourful flecks that flashed behind his eyelids; his balled fists pressed against them as he huddled in the corner. The stench of urine and body odour assailed his nose.

The caterwauling of his neighbours replaced the wind and he moved his hands to his ears to shut it out. Even through cupped hands the voices leaked in.


The voices ignored his plea; instead they hurled curses and jibes in his direction. Sing-song chants of mocking bounced around his small space. Off the concrete walls, the solitary cot, the stained toilet and the metal bars.

“Go away! Leave me alone. Just leave me alone…” his words trailed off. “I don’t belong here. No, not here.”

The flecks behind his eyes morphed into a colourful mass. They swirled and changed. His heart lifted but instead of the wind scared rocks and towering peaks the image of a broken body emerged. He knelt next to it as the sky pulsed red and feet thundered around him. His hands held out in front of him, drenched in blood, the same blood that pooled around the body and stained its long golden tresses. The floral summer dress, once vibrant as it hugged her curves with its floral pattern, now soiled and torn, limp and lifeless. Her eyes continued to stare through him as the hands roughly lifted him away.

Away to here.

Be sure to read the other fine writers entries.

orion_mk3 – (link to this month’s post)
juniper – (link to this month’s post)
LadyMage – (link to this month’s post)
dolores haze – (link to this month’s post)
jkellerford – (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines – (link to this month’s post)
AuburnAssassin – (link to this month’s post)
pezie – (link to this month’s post)
Inkstrokes – You are here
WildScribe – (link to this month’s post)
Guardian – (link to this month’s post)
Lyra Jean – (link to this month’s post)
egoodlett – (link to this month’s post)
cwachob – (link to this month’s post)
Aheïla – (link to this month’s post)
faerydancer – (link to this month’s post)
TheMindKiller – (link to this month’s post)
xcomplex – (link to this month’s post)
Robbi Sommers Bryant – (link to this month’s post)
Irissel – (link to this month’s post)

About Dale Long

Writing ambushed me from the shadows. At first I pushed it aside as nonsense, but luckily my wife and two girls saw the potential. Since then I have had an article published by Metroland, placed as runner-up and in the top ten in humour writing contests and various other contests. The icing on the cake was placing as runner-up in the WCDR's Wicked Words contest (130 entries) and having my entry published in the contests anthology of the same name. My entry was an exerpt from my upcoming novel, Echoes.
This entry was posted in Bites and Bobs, Writing News and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Setting the scene

  1. ralfast says:

    Reminds me of Pan’s Labyrinth. Now I wonder what is behind the violence. Seems like something that happens on a routine basis. Chilling.

    • Dale Long says:

      Now that you mention it… It does remind me of Pan’s labyrinth as well. It will be a bit darker though. It’s going to be fun finding out what the root of the violence is. Although, I have a good idea already.

  2. alexp01 says:

    So the setting is a “happy place” that the protagonist retreats to when faced with adversity or pain? That’s certainly a neat approach, and a solid foundation for a thread that could run throughout the story.

    • Dale Long says:

      Thank you! That was what I was going for. Kinda took a fantasy idea and made it dark. I was jealous of all the great writers with even greater fantasy titles so I thought I’d try my hand at it and as always what started off light and airy got dark real fast.

  3. deepamwadds says:

    Very vivid. Break more rules, because it seems to work well for you. Great fade in and out. You’re off to a leaping start!

  4. Pingback: Wizards’ World War: Dispatch 11- White Picket Fences | Neither Here nor There….

  5. Diane Dooley says:

    Very nice segues from the power of imagination into the harsh reality of prison life into bloody painful memory. Great start!

  6. Pingback: The Fine Art of Flopping | Diane Dooley

  7. Pingback: June Blogchain: Description « A Writer's House

  8. Ellen says:

    Wow, beautiful! I love how you use three different scenes all at once to evoke what the character is feeling. Very well-done (and it’s something that can be hard to do, jumping from scene-to-scene that fast, so kudos!).
    And, I broke the dialogue rule too, just realized… whoopsie! 😉

    • Dale Long says:

      Thank-you Ellen!

      I always like to experiment and most of what works for me is when the pictures in my head are particularily vivid as this one was.

      As for the dialogue, I felt if it added to the overall atmosphere it was ok. Kept to a minimum of course. 😉

  9. Pingback: AW Blog Chain – Scenery « The Writeaholic's Blog

  10. Ya know…I hope all prisoners who have committed heinous crimes have the ability to escape at least within their minds. But like your snippet, I also hope that the horror of what they did to land them in jail yanks it away from them as a continuous form of torment that exceeds the anguish they caused to the victim and victim’s family. There…off my soap box. Lovely prose and I think the monologue worked very nicely to separate the 2 completely different scenes.

    • Dale Long says:

      HAHAHA! I’ve got a shiney well worn soap box of my own so rant away.

      Thanks Claire. Whether he deserves to be there is yet to be seen and a curious journey it will be.

  11. The transition between fantasy and reality was very nicely done. I think the description of the smell is what really brought me back there with him. Something about that sense that just doesn’t let you deny what’s there any more. Nice job.

    • Dale Long says:

      Thanks Erin!

      Whats the saying, ‘play with the senses and you put the reader in the scene’? For me it’s trying to convey the movie in my head onto paper. Sometimes I fail miserably, sometimes I succeed, but never do I get it 100%. Writer’s curse right?

  12. Lyra says:

    Your scene was awesome. At first reading it I thought of Jack London and all his man against nature stories. Then when your character came back to reality and the continuation of his second image/vision it reminded me of “Shutter Island”, I absolutely loved that movie.

    • Dale Long says:

      Thanks Lyra,
      I have to watch Shutter Island now and I am incredibly flattered by the Jack London comparison. He and Farley Mowat were my prefered reading as a kid.

  13. Pingback: AW June Blog Chain: Setting the Scene | The Digital Inkwell

  14. Pingback: Setting the Scene: Vegas Fiction | My Personal Jabberwocky

  15. J.d. Levite says:

    You described three different places better than I could describe one! So jealous! Really liked the transitions from one place to the next, it worked really well. Good luck with the rest of it 🙂

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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