I’m reading The Help right now. Well, okay actually I’m listening to the audio book. Yesterday there was a scene where a character was going over to another character’s house to talk. The scene was tense, awkward, and even a bit suspenseful because we weren’t sure what was going to happen during the conversation.
As I listened, I was struck by how the author used the description of the room the women were in to highlight the tense, suspenseful tone of the meeting. I don’t have the book in front of me to quote from, so I hope you will forgive me for a paraphrase. What I remember most was the description of the color of the walls, the lighting in the room itself, and the window shades.
The color was brown, and the room was dark. The window let in almost no light because the shades were drawn together and pinched together in the middle. The lamp cast a gloomy shadows on the walls.
All of this created an atmosphere of distrust and awkwardness, as previously stated. I found myself taking on those same feelings of discomfort. The tense tone of the scene would not have been nearly so effective if the room was bright, with pink walls and sunshine streaming in through the windows. My point here is that while there is something to be said for excessive description, there is also something so wonderful about using the surroundings to mirror the tone of the characters in that scene. You as the writer have a chance to be creative with how you use lighting and props to pull readers into a particular scene.
It’s important to remember that just because readers can’t physically see the scene like they can while watching a play or a movie, YOU have the power to make the scene come to life. The only thing you’re limited by is your own creativity.