Okay – I shouldn’t say I don’t do them at all. Of course, as an author, I will describe the scene. I will try to “paint” a landscape for the reader, the hills, valleys, trees and meadows. But one of my chief complaints with many Epic Fantasy writers is their preoccupation with landscapes. I’ll give you an example.
“South and west it looked towards the warm lower vales of Anduin, shielded from the east by the Ephel Duath and north by the Emyn Muil, open to the southern airs and the moist winds from the Sea far away. Many great trees grew there, planted long ago, falling into untended age amid a riot of careless descendants; and groves and thickets there were of tamarisk and pungent terebinth, of olive and of bay; and there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes, or with their woody creeping stems mantled in deep tapestries the hidden stones …” – J.R.R. Tolkien (The Two Towers)
Okay, you get the point, and that goes on for a while longer yet. I love Tolkien and his language in that scene is beautiful and flowery and wonderful – but sometimes it is just too much.
When I’m writing a scene, I try to think about it, draw it with words but I also want to get back to the characters, the thoughts, language and emotions they are living in the moment.
There are so many wonderful tales that take you on long journeys through endless fields, describing their world in detail, walking you through every stream and path, climbing every hill, going from sunrise to sunset, to sunrise to sunset again – and nothing eventful happens. It’s just drawing out the journey to help the reader feel the passage of time, but in writing I don’t think that is necessary.
If I’m going to take the time to really write out a landscape for you in detail, it’s because that landscape needs to be highlighted for another higher purpose. It has to be important to the story.
Authors always hear critics say, ‘Show, don’t tell.’ And yet, many epic books do a lot of showing, a lot of over-describing landscapes. I for one, just can’t do that. I’ll put you in the place, help you see it and smell it, but that’s only because it is relevant, nothing wasted.
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The Crystal Crux – Betrayal