Writing is work. I decided this week to give myself a simple task: describe the countryside of 17th-century southern Lincolnshire, where the story opens. I thought I'd start with a sunrise. Simple enough, eh? It's dark -- the sun comes up -- it reveals the countryside that I want to talk about. And since the countryside is marshy and flat, I decided on a nasty rainy day as a background.
So after another delightful hour of research (did you know that the average temperature in Lincolnshire at the height of summer is only 70? Or that polecats live in forests and not marshes?) I set about my task. And that's when I ran into trouble.
How many ways can you say, "It was dark out?"
It was dark out
Darkness covered the land
Black night ruled over all
The darkness was so thick that it . . . something something
Dark night still covered every stone and pool
It's night, d#*@it!
And on and on
OK, so there's a lot of ways to say, "It was dark out." But I want to say it in some way that is actually fun to read, does not sound like every other "It was dark out" that has been written since Gilgamesh was a pup, and doesn't sound like I'm working way too hard ("Velveteen darkness like a hand of death lay suffocatingly" blah blah).
And that's the problem with describing a sunrise. It is so common, and it is so commonly described in literature of all kinds. There are no surprises for the reader when you're on about a sunrise. Now, what the light reveals might be a surprise, but my lucky readers would be getting a swamp with a noisy moorhen, and that's about it. No body in the pool. No shifty-eyed stranger or preternaturally lovely girl.
I suppose that makes it a fairly decent writing exercise. And the purpose was to fix the setting in my own mind, not write the Great American Paragraph. But I found that it is much easier to write something like this blog than it is to write a believable, interesting sunrise.