Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Writer's Retreat

By Beth Terrell

I'm writing this post in my favorite writer's getaway, a cabin in the mountains not far from Gatlinburg. There's a fire burning in the fireplace and a mug of hot chocolate on the coffee table, and if I step out on the back deck, I can see a waterfall shimmering in the moonlight. I take a deep breath and smell damp leaves and burning cedar, the slight chlorine smell of the hot tub on the deck. It's the perfect writer's retreat, and I'm fortunate enough to be able to come here whenever I like.

Yesterday, my writer's retreat was a little bungalow on the beach. My bare toes curled into sand still warm from the afternoon sun, and when I licked my lips, I felt and tasted the grit of salt. Tomorrow, I think I'll write on a houseboat on the lake. The day after, a cottage in Scotland.

Money is no object, not because I'm wealthy enough to rub elbows with Bill Gates, but because I carry my writer's retreat with me wherever I go. As a figment of my imagination, it's whatever and wherever I want it to be. I can close my eyes and summon up the sights, smells, textures, and tastes. A crisp apple, a bowl of steaming oatmeal sprinkled with melting brown sugar, a threadbare quilt smelling of lavender.

This ability to conjure up a total sensory experience is good for more than creating imaginary cabins. It's what makes it possible for a writer to bring a setting to life. Does your character, pursued by a killer, plunge through an overgrown meadow? Can you feel the tall grass whipping across her legs? Feel her heart pounding? Can you smell rain in the air, hear the killer panting behind her? Can you bring that experience to life for your reader?

Through the magic of words, you can. You can take your readers anywhere, show them anything. You can make them love, feel...and believe. What could be better than that?


Mark W. Danielson said...

As I read your blog, I smell the exhaust of burned jet fuel as flashing red beacons of other aircraft push back from their gates. Checking the clock, I await my flight release while demi containers slam into the back of my aircraft. I'm eager to get airborne on my last leg so I might get to bed before the sun comes up. That's my reality, not retreat, but I assure you, I won't overfly my destination -- wherever that might be.

Jean Henry Mead said...

A lovely post, Beth, and so true when it comes to setting one's plot scene. A lively imagination is the most important tool in a writer's bag.

Beth Terrell said...

Jean, thank you. Of all the things I'm grateful for, "the movies in my mind" are near the top of the list (just after the people and pets I love).

Mark, until yesterday, I'd never heard of pilots overflying their destinations. I'm sure all YOUR adventures--both real and literary--will have perfect landings.

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