Have you ever had dreams where the natural laws were suspended, where you were able to swim under water for long periods of time, or float in the air without wings? I’ve had a lot of those dreams during childhood. In my early twenties, I discovered a German painter named Hans-Werner Sahm. His work could be categorized as surrealism as he paints stunning landscapes that never quite follow the natural laws of physics or nature. Nevertheless, or maybe because of it, the paintings evoke emotions of longing, hope, and limitlessness of spirit.
We all know that the basic task of the writer is to evoke emotions in the reader. Ideally, each scene includes at least some element of that. Usually, emotion is created when one or more characters in the story go through experiences of loss, love, fear, external and internal struggle, etc. I always felt that landscapes can evoke those very same reactions, albeit in a completely different way.
As an example from my own writing, in The Three Feathers, the landscape itself is what pushes a good amount of the plot forward. The characters travel from one location to the next and the landscape itself, dangerous and beautiful alike, becomes an obstacle or a place of refuge, depending on where they are on their journey. The images create an emotional arc, adding depth to the individual arcs of the characters.
The depth of the landscape can mirror the depth of the emotions the characters go through at any given point in the story. I found that whatever the landscape is, should reinforce the emotion of the characters so that, even if there is a scene where nothing much happens in terms of character development, the emotional impact of the landscape is still present.
Landscapes can make characters seem powerless and small in comparison, adding to the sense of danger and futility the characters have to overcome in order to reach their goal.
The image above is a good example. For me, it evokes feelings of loss and parting, danger, and a certain finality. I imagine a traveler reaching this point in her journey only to realize that she cannot continue. Her quest is in jeopardy, maybe the life of a loved one on the other side of the bridge is now more in danger than ever before. How will she get to the other side. Here’s an idea: Eagles!!! 🙂
In the book I’m working on right now, I have just reached the point where I was able to begin working on a map of the main character’s whole journey. Simply working on the map always provides me with immense insights into the story and characters. Plot points begin to fall into place and things come together more coherently. Drawing a map, to me, is always the most helpful part of developing a story (Besides, in this case, listening to an extensive amount of DRAGON FORCE!). The book is called Apocalypse Weird: The White Dragon – Crucible. It will be out next year.
Part One, The White Dragon – Genesis is available here.
Hans-Werner Sahm does not have a web site but if you Google his name, most of his paintings will come up in the search.
Cheers and happy reading and writing,