You're behind the wheel of a an open-air sports coupe, hitting the highway, wind in your hair (provided you have enough, which I don't), the refreshing rush of morning breeze lifting your spirits, the song on the radio pumping its rythmn through your blood, the landscape flashing by, the ocean on one side...
Actually you're not, you're reading a novel but you feel you're right there alongside the protagonist, seeing what he/she is seeing, feeling the same exhiliarating sense of freedom and excitement...You wish you really were there.
That's what the best fiction does, transplants us into the middle of the action, where we feel we are an honorary character in the cast, walking the walk, talking the talk.
It's one of the secrets of success of the world's most popular writers.
Wilbur Smith's epic adventures take place on land, sea and in the air. I'm sure many readers, like myself, have tasted the salt of the sea on their tongues, or the dryness of the desert parching their lips, or the adrenaline kicking in as a safari hits the open African plains.
Reading Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road,' I felt I was tramping alongside the hero on that apocolyptic near-future journey or feeling the tropical heat and rain in Somerset Maugham's novels and short stories.
Setting of scene and atmosphere is one of the writer's most effective tools of trade, and is effectively what puts the reader into the action.
We've all visited a place that seemed to be imbued with its own personality. Every place has its unique characteristics. Zeroing in on those and subtly using them to build the ambience of a location is an essential part of the craft for every writer to master.
The writer's goal is not to get bogged down with long passages of by-the-numbers description, but instead to briefly and deftly weave those sensory aspects of a place into the plot, just as a painter must brush them onto canvas with light and shade (that's today's lesson, I do try to pass these things on, lol)
Right now though I'd like to be behind the wheel of a sports car in an exotic location, and where better to be suave, sophisticated and worldly than on the pages of one of Ian Fleming's James Bond books, where he invariably drives Alfa Romeos, the Ford T-Bird, Mercedes convertibles, the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost...
That sports coupe on an ocean road?
I'm still waiting for that scene to be written.
But I can dream, can't I?
Better still maybe I can persuade a boutique car dealer to let me take the latest sports models for a spin, testing their wares on coastal highways, and into the country...research, after all, is essential to getting the facts straight. Wonder if Mr. Fleming ever tried that?