An evocative setting often provides a powerful effect as a silent messenger through metaphors. It may be the truth behind the story that will last with thematic impact long after the characters/events are themselves forgotten.
In the historical romance “A Memory Between Us,” by Sarah Sundin, there are many opportunities for the external visual scenes to connect to an internal heart connection, making a metaphoric bridge to connect us to a deeper understanding of her characters.
For example, in chapter eleven as they stroll “down the street and through the imposing Norman Gate Tower. Jack pointed out the slits in the thick stone walls.” They walk into a circular garden where a man plays a violin to a group of children. Jack lays down his jacket so Ruth doesn’t snag her stockings on the black, white and gray stones protruding from the mortar. And then too there’s the watch—time moving forward.
The setting is steeped in history—part of a ruined abbey. And right now that is how Ruth views her own life, as in ruins. She struggles between emotions that are black, white and gray as she finds herself drawn to Jack, and at the same time pushes him away. It’s interesting that Ruth considers it stupid that the ancient building were torn down in the Reformation. She has thick emotional walls surrounding her but there a few slits opening and Jack is coming through them. Maybe she also has a premonition, or fear, that her wall will be smashed too. But often our walls have to come down so healing can take place. Which begins a few paragraphs on as they prepare to dance and Ruth finds herself sobbing in his arms.
“Now the tears flowed in an unrelenting stream. Folded in Jack’s arms, she could be weak, she could grieve, she could be nurtured.” (And can’t you just hear the violin still playing.) She feels safe, she weakens, he kisses her, she melts, and then all the past ugliness rises up to poison the moment. In her sorrow and hurt she then lashes out at Jack, and steps back into the ruins of her heart.
Make a list of similar settings you’ve chosen for your novel. Are there connecting images? Choose one that connects to a choice, or a secret, or a fear that your character is hiding. Rewrite the scene using it as a silent metaphor.