Sunday, June 17, 2007


Capturing atmosphere in a painting is a pretty big deal. Creating a sense of distance and open air on a two dimensional platform is often a goal, especially in landscapes.

While sitting under the deck gazebo today, analyzing how the real deal colors interact to inform me about atmosphere and space, it got me thinking about atmosphere in writing. How does the written word inform the reader about atmosphere? Color is less abstract than the written word when you're trying to transmit a sense of real place to someone outside yourself. At least with color you can create a visual space that guides the imagination pretty reliably.

The written word does have advantages, though. Yes, you can make a scratch and sniff painting, but it loses something in the process. If you do that you're getting too cute with the medium, and it loses meaning. With writing you can play with all the senses, including non-physical ones. Naturally, an advantage like that adds complexity, which adds more dimensions in which you can really foul up things.

So that's what I was thinking about today. It doesn't really go anywhere, except to this: when I write next, maybe I can reach a little deeper by trying to analyze how things interact in the scene to make it special. What stands out? Maybe this time I'll skip the furniture when I describe a room. Maybe what's really important is the scent, or the lighting, or the interaction between the two. Maybe it's a detail, something odd, like a lamp that doesn't fit the decor. What sets the mood?

What is the atmosphere, and what are the most important elements that interact to create that sense of space?


Ris said...

I think you nailed the idea I've been working with on description. Going for details that capture the mood or personality of the place rather than just describing what's around because it's there.

I've found that in script writing, those details become so much more important because that is one of the tools I have to define a character or a situation, the lighting, the importance of what is around the characters, any sounds that might permeate the place. Anything I choose to describe might be used as a literal map of sorts to define the physical scene in a movie or play, and therefore has taken on far more significance for me than it had in fiction.

It's another thing I'm learning with script writing, and it's another lesson I'll be applying in fiction writing that I think will do me well.

I like how your painting skills are shifting your perspective in writing. Good luck playing with it!

KamiZM said...

I'm glad you're learning so much from script writing! I plan to steal as much of that knowledge as possible. It almost makes me wish I took up the script-writing challenge ... almost. I think in addition to floundering, I would have gotten zip done on Masks, and getting zip done on Masks in June would be bad, very very bad indeed.

I took a bunch of pics of myself the other day and I plan to paint a self-portrait. Where the heck did that inspiration come from? I wonder what I'll do to myself.

I'll have to resist the urge to paint Groucho glasses and mustache on myself.

Ris said...

You'd look very stylish in Groucho mustache and glasses!