Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dealing with Emptiness

Back in October, I went to the James River Writers Conference and listened to a session with Dean King, Richmond best selling author, on writing history. I normally do not read historical fiction, nor do I pick up historical books for the heck of it.

At the time, I was struggling with how to describe a landscape swept clean. Nothing there. Nada. Zip. Nil. But how to show such destruction, such isolation? How do you describe the absence of something rather than the presence of something?

At this particular session, King talked about his bestseller Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival. Set in 1815, the book follows the story of twelve America sailors shipwrecked off the coast of West Africa, captured, enslaved and driven into the desert. I talked with King after the session and asked him many questions about dealing with bare landscapes.

King does a terrific job of describing how the desert is barren and yet not barren. There is life there, if you know how to look for it.

From King's descriptions I learned how to describe the landscape in which my main character will find herself in Mad Max 2. I think I can fill the nothingness with small life forms, with sounds and smells, with the rubble of destruction.

Thank you, Dean King, for suggesting that your book might be an inspiration. It was and is.

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