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Writing in the Sunshine. Writing in the Shadows.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Quality of Silence

Having lived in London for may years, where it is rarely quiet, even in the early hours of the morning, one of my favourite things about being back home in Wales is the silence. Especially at the moment, when we are having some summer weather, and I can sit out in the garden with the first cup of tea in the morning. You can almost touch the silence, except for the odd gull on the roof. When it's very still, I can hear the clock chimes and the peal of church bells from the mainland. Not exactly silence, but something that is possible because of it. Of course, when the sun shines and the beach is full there are plenty of other sounds- traffic, the funfair ...

Then there is the silence in the middle of the night, when the rest of the world seems to be asleep and only you and the moon are awake. Until the local cats decided to come and sing under the window. You don't get that in London - or at least, not in a 5th  floor flat!

But silence can be a powerful thing. One of may favourite playwrights , Harold Pinter, is famous for his pauses - the use of silence to convey an atmosphere - usually something menacing. Perhaps it's the playwright's influence, but my heroes tend to be big on manipulating silence. If you don't speak, then other people feel compelled to fill up the gap. And maybe give away more than they intended ...

I've been thinking about how to convey an ominous silence too - not quite so easy in a book. People talking - well you just write down what they say - but when no one is speaking? It's all down to conveying an atmosphere. I'm playing with a scene set around this time of year, when the nights are short and something distinctly threatening is about to be revealed, just as the dawn comes up. Pale light first, then strange shapes where bushes and undergrowth are not fully visible. Maybe a little rustling sound that might be the breeze, or a bird or an animal.
And a figure, standing motionless among the trees. ....

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