Recently I’ve done a great deal of thinking about scene setting. This was prompted by seeing Les Miz the movie after having seen the stage version several times. The story and most of the music were the same, but the scene settings were completely opposite. The stage version had very few props, while the movie was opulent.
We all have to do it. Whether our world is a book, play, or movie is set in the 21st century, an historical period, or a fantasy world of the author’s own making, setting the scene is what draws the reader into our creation. Helps make them identify with our characters, and make the book, movie or play one they’ll enjoy.
Which do you like better, sparse, lavish, or something in between? Please post an excerpt with showing your preference. Here is mine from The Temptation of Lady Serena releasing in January 2014.
1814, Scottish Border Region
The Earl of Weir scowled. “Damn it, Serena, you can’t back out now. Not after the plans have been made. If you don’t go to London who will you marry? What do you have left here?”
Lady Serena Weir stared out the solar’s window, studying the bleak late February landscape. Snow covered the ground, more gray than white; the trees lifeless and black against the gloom. She glanced over her shoulder at her brother, James. “I could marry Cameron.”
“Do you even care for him more than moderately?”
“No, but he needs to marry, and he likes me.” She turned back to the window. Snow still covered the hills. In another month they’d be the feeding ground for the castle’s sheep and cattle. But if Mattie, her new sister-in-law, had
her way, Serena would not be there to see it.
James snorted with derision. “Cameron likes your dowry. Mattie has made all the plans. She assures me you’ll have a wonderful time.”
Serena pressed her lips tightly together. The plans, he’d said, as if they had taken on a life. The plans for her to go to London for her first Season at six and twenty years of age. A little old to be making a come out. The plans meant she would leave her home. The place she had been born and raised and never before left. Tears pricked her eyelids. She would not cry. Not in front of James. If a London Season was such a good idea, why hadn’t he sold out of the army after their father died, when she was still young? Instead, he’d left her here to manage the estate while he remained on Wellington’s staff.
James returned shortly before Christmas, with his bride, Madeleine—Mattie, as she liked to be called—and Serena’s ordered life was thrown into turmoil. She no longer knew what her future held.
Despite her warm cashmere dress and woolen shawl, Serena shivered. No matter how many fires were lit, Vere was always cold and damp, even in the solar, the warmest room in the castle. London would probably be warmer. That might be a good reason to go.
James teased her in the local dialect. “Serena, lass…”
She bit her lip. “James Weir, I know you did not speak Scots with Wellington.”
“Please, Sissy?” Her brother said, reverting to his childhood name for her. “Stop looking out the window and talk to me.”
Serena sighed, but turned. Her brother was tall with dark brown hair, like their mother’s, whereas she had her father’s auburn curls. She’d known he would marry, but it never occurred to her he would bring a wife home with him. Or that Serena would be forced to leave.
Serena fought her sudden panic, but there truly was nothing here for her anymore. “Fine. I’ll go.”
“Good girl!” He smiled. “I’ll tell Mattie it’s settled.”
James gave Serena a peck on the cheek and strode out the door.
“Do. Go tell Mattie,” Serena muttered in frustration. What didn’t he tell Mattie?
London was Mattie’s idea to rid herself of her unwanted sister-in-law. Serena had been presented with the plans au fait accompli. Somehow, she would have to make the best of it.