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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Creating atmosphere/setting the scene in your writing

I was struck today sitting in a new coffee and cake shop at how important it is to create atmosphere. Obviously we try to do this in our writing, but it is done every day in various ways that we hardly notice. Yet there is a kind of magic conjured up when atmosphere is created. If we can inject a little of that magic into our stories, they will come alive. This picture I hope demonstrates what I mean.This new coffee shop, Dolce Dolce is in Purley where the only other coffee shop I frequent is Costa. Dolce Dolce used to be a pizza parlour but it has been TRANSFORMED in a simple but magical way. As they are primarily a wedding business creating cakes and other goodies for special events, the creation of a light, airy, romantic feel is important in letting people know what the business is all about. Firstly everything has been painted white and there are wispy folds of light curtaining at the window. What isn't white has been painted gold so that what might have been dull, dark wood is burnished. Cleverly, the owner, Antoinette, has scattered lovely old pieces of furniture, coffee tables, and chaises longues throughout and covered them in pastel and ivory fabrics. A long counter full of cup cakes and apricot and almond tarts have made it look like a French patisserie and mirrors reflect all the goodies back at you. When you see a sign like this garlanded in its own little frame with golden curlicues you know you're not in Costa! The cups and saucers which instead of being a uniform colour or shape are a variety of wonderful mix and match pieces of old Aynsley and other ware is presented with gold pastry forks and eating out of a cornucopia of different tea sets is unusual and fun. Finally, 4 chandeliers complete the picture and pictures are what I'm talking about. For when we set the scene in our books and short stories, it only takes a few sentences to sum up where your characters are. But these sentences have to be well chosen and create atmosphere. I critique a lot of manuscripts and I often find one scene blurs into another because the author hasn't given places an identity. A few well chosen sentences to paint a picture are all that is needed to breathe life into a story. Dolce Dolce is like a film set and all the better for it. The next time you are sitting somewhere which has a strong atmosphere, jot down notes and analyse what visuals and scents make it come alive and I guarantee this can be used to push your writing up another notch.

3 comments:

Rosemary Gemmell said...

That's a great lesson, Cara - thanks! I like the look the lovely new place.

Cara Cooper said...

Thanks Rosemary. I was really struck by how little money they'd spent and yet completely changed the atmosphere. Just goes to prove you don't need to go over the top, you just need to know what 'identity', what sort of feel you're working towards and not hedge your bets but go for it! I think it's the same in writing. I'm just reading the start of a John Grisham and I've been more aware of how spare but how direct he is in painting a picture of where the story's set!

Antoinette said...

Love this post about our shop Cara, thank you so much love what you said ''Dolce Dolce is like a film set and all the better for it.'' I truly believe setting is everything!!