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Rainless among marram

October 15, 2007
After a six-week intermission, the conclusion of Where does rain come from? Previously: 1) Where does rain come from?, 2) Rain intensifies the drama of the question, 3) Rain—everyone needs it like everyone needs a great narrative and 4) Rain either rolls off your back or gets under your skin.

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It is not raining today. The sky is blue with the possibility of anything but clouds. A southern breeze from the ocean moves the marram grass on the beach. A mother and child stroll among the tide pools. She is young, slender, and her blonde hair matches her child’s. The child, maybe 18 months old, averts her attention and rushes, bold as the sky is blue, toward the surf. The mother walks on for a dozen paces before noticing the child’s adventure, turns and runs briskly across the strand to guide the child to their beach chairs. But there is no rain today.

There are a host of details in this scene. But what is essential? The fact that her wavy hair is pulled back in a single ponytail? The fact that she wears bright blue, form-fitting shorts with a black top? The fact that her girlfriend is smoking a cigarette while waiting for the mother and child to join her near the fishing poles? The fact that a tattoed, dark-haired, young man is flying a colorful kite near the mother and child? What about the colorful kite? Colorful, but should each color be named? Should the gender of the child be revealed. What is essential to a scene or narrative is what can be removed. Why write a dozen pages of exposition when a couple lines of dialogue convey the same message and advance the story to the next scene?

It has been four months since exploring where rain comes from–four months of putting my ear to the ground and listening for the distant thunder of approaching rain drops. And what of it? Simply this; a writer invites the reader to share in the knowledge of where rain originates in quick, unobtrusive gestures that avoid insulting but educates the reader of a grand narrative. When the splash of rain finally comes, shoot a glance up to the sky as if to tell the reader “It comes from above.”

2 Comments
  1. October 15, 2007 3:11 pm

    I enjoyed this. I’ve always believed in finding creative ways to describe setting, because there are some authors that just go too at length, When I’m tempted to skip three pages because all they contain is setting and character description, then I know my reader will be tempted to do the same. What’s the point of writing all of that if no one will read it?

  2. kajoemanis permalink
    January 9, 2009 4:35 am

    I think I still need to learn to describe setting without telling. Help!

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