Practice Writing Descriptions for Fiction


The rolling hills of the African Rift Valley


Whenever I travel around Malawi I see these breathtaking landscapes which spark my imagination. The rainy season is my favourite time, since I adore the natural blues and greens - you see plenty of those when you're travelling as far up as the northern region. 

I took the opportunity to work on the areas of my fiction writing I have always wanted to improve: descriptions. I get excited writing plots, characters, and action, but what suffers in the end is my settings and descriptions that immerse readers into the place the character is located. So why not use real settings for practice?

So here goes:

Nkhata Bay, Northern Region

~~~

Nkhata Bay had its own energy; unlike Mzuzu, Lilongwe, or Blantyre, something about the northern lakeside town gave the feeling of a holiday frozen in time. Although the season was not quite right for a holiday, with overcast skies that oscillated between pouring rains and breaks of blazing sunshine, there was nonetheless the calm that invited visitors to slow the pace of the day. Perhaps it was the waves of the massive freshwater Lake Malawi which stretched almost from toe to tip of the entire country, lapping steadily at the shores of the pale sand in its hypnotic way. 

The beach met with a hill, whose bright green foliage sharply contrasted with the beach line, creating a border between sand and grass that was so defined, it could have been mapped. Speckled on the hill were 2 room chalets built on the rock and faced the lake; none had fences. A small stream cut a path from the rocks, in front of chalets that were on the northern side of the beach, down to the sand, until it formed a mini-delta, only 3 metres wide, where it met the lake waters. Three bars stood spaced out across the beach, ready to provide refreshments. The bars were different shapes and sizes with different mixes of clientele, but all three donned a thatched roof to match the lakeside aesthetic.

A pure scent-less breeze swept in from the lake filling the lungs of the handful of people loitering on the beach, with the elixir of life itself. A couple strolled along the beach; a middle-aged man and a college girl. It wasn't long before she handed him her phone and converted him to become her cameraman, posing by the mini-delta with the lake in the background. Two white women in swimming costumes waded into the lake, followed by a group of Malawian schoolchildren, whose splashes and squeals of joy were slightly muted by the wind and the waves. A golden Labrador wagged its tail and splashed in the waves along with them.

Dreadlocked craftsmen sat on the stone steps of the bar in the centre, where they had a good view of potential customers who might walk across from a neighbouring beach, or come down from the main conference centre building behind them. They carried backpacks full of colourful bracelets made of artfully twisted copper and string, paintings of animals and people on rectangular cloth, and wooden key chains with names labelled on the front and different African animals on the back. For the most exclusive customers, there were secret pockets in their backpacks which had herbs that came by many names, and a variety of uses. It was an open secret that many travelled from far and wide to sample them.   

The beach would have been picture perfect, except for the cans and bottles that littered the sand, scattered in a loose line about a meter away from the shoreline. They had been swept up and pushed by the waves, before the tide receded back. The craftsmen would clean them up later - as soon as they were sure who was going to pay them for the task. 

The clouds which had been giving everything a grey tone, rolled away without warning, and the sun broke through. The breeze warmed and the sand began to warm the feet of barefoot beach strollers... 


~~~



That was fun! I will probably do this again in another blog post.

To sign off, here's a challenge for you:

Can you write your own description of the setting below? The best description posted in the comment section by 11:59pm on the 1st of March will be guest featured in next week's blog post! (bonus points if you put characters in the scene)




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