By Nick G. Giannaras
Hey all, this is Nick and this is my first article for Teen Factory and I’m excited to be able to help others fulfill their endeavors. As some of you may know, I am an American Civil War Re-enactor. There are many civil wars which have taken place through the years, so I clarified for simplicity. With my historical fiction piece set during the Civil War, duh, I was able to draw from tons of experience, sixteen years worth, in order to capture the flavor of this specific time period. In writing, you want to make people “feel” what they are reading: the icy winds off the northern Atlantic, the crisp fall morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or even the sweltering heat of a summer evening in southern Florida, the emotions of the characters. Do this, and you’ll hook them to read deeper.
Now, drawing off an awesome vocabulary can create this. But nothing beats describing something from a personal experience. Therefore, one of my favorite methods of imagining a scene to describe is to experience it. How? Go visit. Being a Civil War Re-enactor, I can draw on memories of waking up before dawn to bugle blats and drum rolls, the smell of campfires, the aches of stiff muscles from sleeping on the ground, and all the excitement of battle.
In visiting a place or event, you will be able to take your time and record your thoughts on a hand-held recorder, jot it down on notes, or even take pics to capture your experiences. For example, say you are writing about a scene in a quaint small New England town. Find one. Then, find an isolated vantage point, have your coffee, tea, or cocoa with you (if it’s cold outside), and watch. Watch the people, traffic, business activities, how the morning or evening sun sets upon the town. Document it.
Perhaps you are writing about folks in a retirement home, a graveyard at night, a historical battle reenactment (lots to choose from). Go, visit, observe, document. To draw on my example again, let’s say you are doing a piece on the civil war and need to truly feel the sting of battle. You should be able to find a reenacting unit close by (the members live everywhere) and talk to their commanding officer. Tell them what you are doing and find out if it is possible for you to attend an event (usually on weekends) and fall in with them. Historical reenactors (living historians) love for folks to participate. You will be taught how to drill, fight, eat, sleep, etc. like the real soldiers did. You will be IN THE MIDDLE of the action! From one weekend, or even one day, you should be able to create a library of descriptions off of it.
So, next time you need help in describing something, give your writing a boost. Go visit. You won’t be sorry.