We entered a clearing where the path was broader and more firmly packed. As the clearing widened, it became more like a meadow bordered by trees, with the sound of water slapping against a shoreline beyond; on the far shore of the blue lake stood the tree-covered slopes of the Challa Mountains. I expected to find rough village huts such as one would find in a goblin encampment, but I found I had underestimated the Strakkin and their esthetic senses. As a matter of fact, despite my turmoil, I had to stop and appreciate the loveliness of their town.
Houses were spaced along a broad avenue of packed earth, with a large lodge at the end of the avenue, which I mistakenly took for the chief’s house. The smaller buildings were made from hewn logs that came from the slender birch trees scattered throughout the forest. Each house, raised from the ground by framework closed in by open latticework, had two or three rooms, which were visible from the ground. This was because the end wall was open and strung with beaded hangings that glittered in the sunlight.
You could see into the home’s main area, but the other rooms were private, closed off with brightly colored woven cloth. The roofs were made of split wood, tiled to prevent leakage and seamed with some kind of dark material, like tar, except where on Athero would these people find tar? Certainly not in the northern woods of Challa. The whole effect was rather ethereal with the weathered silver look of the birch, the filmy latticework of the open foundation, the beauty of the beads and gaiety of the colored cloths within.
The picture above left is one of the pictures I collected to help me visualize the area that I have described. This description starts shortly after Emerald, the High Priestess, and main character of the story, has been captured by the Strakkin, an undiscovered race of dark-skinned people on Athero. Emerald is on a desperate mission to save both the benigns of Athero from a savage coup by the maligns, as well as her own eyesight, and cannot spare the time to be captured. But there she is. This is her first glimpse of the “natives’” home and she is quite taken with it. The reason this description is important is that it starts giving clues as to where the Strakkin actually come from. I won’t tell you more, though, and spoil the story.
So here’s a little exercise for you…look at that picture and place your main character in it. Describe the scene through his or her eyes and little by little reveal why s/he is there. Try doing it in 275 words or less (the above quote is 276 words). If you wish to share it with us, we would be delighted. If not, that’s okay too. If the above picture doesn’t work for you, find another one that will. Good luck and have fun!