Landscape as Part of the Narrative

The face of the heath by its mere complexion added half-an-hour to eve: it could in like manner retard the dawn, sadden noon, anticipate the frowning of storms scarcely generated, and intensify the opacity of a moonless midnight to a cause of shaking and dread

That little bit comes from Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native. I love the story for its tragic elements, certainly, but mostly I enjoy its use of landscape. Hardy paints a narrative that gives life to the land surrounding his characters, as though the earth itself were given the quality, the emotional capacity, and thought of a human being. Prominently displayed within each scene, the land exists as a steady, persistent counterbalance to the often irrational passions, whims, and yearnings of the characters.

Likewise, I like to use landscape as a tool to both guide my narrative along, and to aid as that persistent counterbalance to my protagonists. At times, it is positive, and times negative. At times, it is reassuring, and at times ruthless.

Landscape. Nature. These elements are important, I think. With such beauty, and richness, and color to speak of, I simply don’t see how it can’t be important. Of course it depends upon the type of story you’re telling. But for me, in the case of A Thousand Screaming Rabbits, it’s incredibly vital.

Here’s a snippet from near the end of Chapter 1:

After waving goodbye, I wandered slowly back in the direction of my apartment but didn’t make it all the way. An empty crop field lay motionless in the fading moonlight. There’s a large, cool rock and I sit down on it. In the field, in between long running ridges, tiny strands pop up through the soil. They sit in their perfect lines and wave goodbye to the moon, hello to the soft beam of the peeking sun. I sit and think of how much they all look the same- so young, so innocent. They stand and stretch their tiny sprouting leaves, waiting for the sun, the growth, the tampering, the separation, the dying. Beauty at its beginning, I think. Jumping off the rock, I land in the soil and lay down on my back. It’s supple, cool and I can hear something below- perhaps earthworms making homes or corporate offices or more worms. I close my eyes and feel calm- if only for a few seconds. I figure some family man lost it for a moment, snagging it before I could take a gulp. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out I tell myself. Out on the road behind me, early morning coughs from early morning cars pass by. Moisture from the ground seeps through my shirt, my pant legs. I could be one with this earth soon enough, I tell myself. A fresh stalk of human green bean, orange tree or what have you.

Project Update:
Just passed the 22,500 word mark. Hooray!
Additionally, my seemingly constant intermingling of tenses is quite annoying. Go editor, go!

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