Do you think in words, images, senses, or emotions first?

The following is a rambling on process and why I look to nature for queues on mood in real life and in stories. I wouldn’t go so far as to say nature dictates the outcome and mentality for a character, but I would definitely say weather is very closely tied to mood and tone.

When I’m coming up with a story, I tend to want to write a vivid scene with specific details that put me as a reader in a state of mind I want the character to be in when she/he is first introduced. I think outlook and attitude of character is something that depends largely on how they interact with their surroundings. So, the scene has to be right to put the character in that state of mind. In some cases the weather is as uncertain as the character’s path in the story.

I think this is pretty common. I see it in the first lines of books. Pull one off your shelf, or go to a bookstore and read that first line. Do it ten times. Pick random books that you wouldn’t normally read. A lot of them start with weather.

Example of how this might work in practice for me:

I look outside the coffee shop window at the trees wrapped in white Christmas lights. They’ve been hung up year round. The branches shake as the wind picks up a little, blowing leaves onto the sidewalk. Warmly wrapped women, and men keep their heads down as they walk through the blistering cold looking at anything but the grey skies above. It’s the middle of the afternoon. I can’t help but wonder are all these people on a lunch break? Is it their day off? Or are they unemployed and moving from an interview back to the hunt? The lights on the tree shut off, and nobody notices. Nobody but me.

The first thing I thought was “it was a day unlike any other.” Frankly I think the above paragraph is better. But part of what I think I’m doing ,and maybe I’m not, is setting up a scene that’s tense in nature, maybe on the cusp of a storm. That’s the feeling I get. But the first thought was “a day unlike any other.”

What a load of shit right?

I almost have to work against myself to progress into something that reflects how I feel. So, maybe you don’t like this. Maybe it totally sucks. But it’s the type of thing that allows me to immerse myself in the creative flow of developing a story. It’s like a state-of-mind I can now either realize through a character’s story, and I can start asking who is she/he, and why is she even there at a coffee shop in the first place?

But then again I’m at a coffee shop writing this, so maybe I’m not very creative.

Point being, I think in senses first. How about you? Which do you focus on when you’re at the very beginning of writing a scene?

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