I’m so jealous when I read a romance and find myself immersed into the scenery. Sofia Grey gets me every time, with her perfectly balanced descriptions of surroundings. They’re never in danger of slipping into purple prose and overpowering the story, but never dry and purely supportive either. Her settings descriptions feel so…effortless.
Which is the last word that comes to mind when I’m doing world-building.
I can do fluff, and I’m rather happy with how I handle deep emotion. I admit I’ve wussed out at times, but I’ve gotten comfortable with serving my heroes’ heart out on a platter and baring myself to my readers in the process.
And I have no issues writing about sweet lovemaking or hard fucking*. Give me a cock to describe; give me thrusting and moaning; give me oral, give me anal (this sounded wrong, didn’t it?) and I’m A-Okay!
But ask me for surroundings, and I’m at a loss. For better or worse—worse being the possibility of me getting committed, eventually—my characters speak to me. Their voices are clear inside my head, as is everything about them. The scenery, sadly, is usually no more than a blur.
When I’m writing a story that takes place somewhere in the States, my uselessness can sort of make sense. I’ve never been to that side of the Atlantic, after all. I do my oodles of research on Google and Wiki, and then pray people aren’t thrown out of the story because I make a glaring mistake.
Thing is, I still can’t decide if creating a world from scratch is easier or harder. In my WIP, Exotic Beast by Xopi Chilli, the opening scene has a male vampire approaching a wooded area guarded by a female shifter.
Rex wanted to fuck her
No. More than that. He wanted to take her. Have her. He hadn’t had a woman in months, and she was incredibly hot. Her tight leather outfit showed off her lean body, small perky breasts, and narrow hips that led to legs impossibly long for someone of her small stature.
He wanted to have her at his mercy. Pound into her until he took his satisfaction.
And then drain her.
But mostly, he wanted to shut her up.
“Are you listening, Vampire?”
“Not like I have a choice,” he said. “You’re loud.” Annoying too. Pity. If she were nicer, he might overlook the fact that she was a fucking mutt.
“So are your boots; I could hear you stomping toward us from a mile away. You’re lucky I’m the one who got to you first. Now leave and don’t come back. Your kind isn’t welcome here.”
He wasn’t supposed to kill anyone, but if she kept this up…
“We already covered that.” He faked a yawn. “And I already told you I’m passing through, whether you like it or not. I have no qualms against hurting bitches—of the human or dog variety.”
The shifter growled. It was funny how the slip of a girl tried to intimidate him. With her pale blonde hair and green eyes, she resembled a cat more than someone who could turn into a wolf at will.
A drop of water landed on Rex’s nose. He sniffed the air. Great! Rain was all he needed now. Lightning slashed the night sky, and as if God was mocking him, a heavy shower began pelting the clearing.
“Don’t get your tail in a twist, pup,” Rex said, trying to be heard above the roar of the rain. “I mean your pack no harm. I’m just in a hurry and not planning to be sidetracked by a youngster with too much time in her hands.”
The shifter was unperturbed by the rain. She squared her shoulders. “Mean us no harm? You’re alone, and we fill the forest. You’ll be dust before your fangs pop out.”
“Big talk for such a tiny fur-ball. Are you the one who’ll dust me?” He narrowed his eyes. “I don’t think you are. I don’t think you’re here to stop me at all. I think you’re my welcome treat.” He waggled his tongue lewdly.
Her lips contorted in a moue of disgust. “As if! This is pack ground. I’m one of its keepers. I’m not letting you pass. How hard is it for you to get that through your thick skull, dead-boy?”
Rex snarled, the bones of his face shifting to let his demon show. “If I don’t get to the Balancers tonight, you’ll have no ground to keep.” The words came out in a growl. “Stand aside before I forget my vows.”
He’d expected her to flinch, but she snorted. “Vows? Like your kind has any honor.”
Rex had heard enough. The last syllable had just left her lips, when his fist connected with the side of her head, right above the ear. She barely had time to look annoyed—though maybe that was her default expression—before her eyes rolled back, and she slid to the already moist earth.
Fuck, she’d be able to follow his trail easily if he just left her there. His footsteps would be like arrows pointing to his direction, even if the rain masked his scent.
Maybe he could tie her to a tree?
That could work if he had some rope on him.
The shifter was a guard, she’d said. She ought to have something on her. Rex unzipped her biker jacket and ran his hands along its lining, accidentally brushing the knuckles of his hand against one of her breasts. “Sorry,” he muttered. He hadn’t been raised to grope unconscious women—feeding on them was a different matter. But again: she was a mutt and therefore a no-go.
His search was unproductive. The chit didn’t even carry handcuffs. How was she supposed to detain intruders?
Or was she?
If her orders were to kill on sight, she’d been nicer than Rex had given her credit for. Not that it made a difference. He couldn’t risk her hunting him down or going for backup, and he didn’t think snapping her neck would be overlooked by the Balancers.
Plus, it was a pretty neck.
“Bollocks,” he said to the trees that stood just a few feet away.
He bent down, scooped the shifter up and tossed her over his shoulder. He looked to his right. Then his left. Then he listened.
His efforts to make sure nobody else was around were futile; the rain was smothering all other sound and smell.
He crossed the distance to the tree closest to him and tried to make out anything moving in the dark depths. Even his night vision couldn’t wrap around trees, though. He’d have to go in anyway and keep his guard up. “Well,” he said, stepping inside the thick undergrowth, “here goes nothing.”
I have the entire story in my head, but haven’t written past this scene because I’ve sprained my brain trying to think of how to describe the bloody woods!
And to think I went with a fantasy land to avoid the added pressure of describing a real place I’d never visited.
That doesn’t mean I give up. I try more, harder. I go deeper. I groan and sweat over each and every manuscript (I did it again, didn’t I?) trying to improve.
Sometimes I wish I could make it all about the sex.
And sometimes I do just that.
If you’re a writer, how naturally does describing the settings come to you? (Got any tips?)
If you’re a reader, is there an author whose descriptions never ever fail to pull you in?
*In English. Can’t write about any kind of sex in Greek, for some reason.