Tag: weather

weather

Cold Winds Blow

 They (the mysterious “they” who is always telling you what you should or shouldn’t do) say you shouldn’t write about the weather. I’m ignoring that advice. Weather impacts our moods in real life. A warm, sunny Spring day brings smiles to our faces. A cold, gray, wet winter’s day induces groans and sadness. The heavy, humid air just before a thunderstorm makes us tense and uneasy. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a clinical condition where cold, dark weather brings on depression often severe enough to warrant treatment. And weather certainly presents obstacles we must overcome. Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, high winds, hail, snow—all as potentially dangerous as an armed intruder or an angry ex. Weather can, and should, act in fiction they same way it acts in real life. “It’s a dark and stormy night” may not be the world’s best opening sentence but weather can be used to significant effect in stories. Weather can set tone, provide foreshadowing, or reflect characters’ moods. “The Fall of the House of Usher” wouldn’t read the same if set on a warm and sunny day. Charlotte Bronte uses weather to foreshadow Jane Eyre’s experiences and as a metaphor for her moods and emotions. Weather can also […]

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Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year

 Why are writers always cautioned to never start a novel with weather? Overdoing weather, I get, especially if it idyllic. But weather is the perfect metaphor for conflict and story is conflict.             My mother, who was of Irish descent and not inclined to wear her heart on her sleeve as the family called it, would begin singing the classic song, “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” from the 1940’s, whenever something took a downward turn or a fight was brewing. I’m sure she was inspired by Deanna Durbin’s version made famous in the 1944 noir crime film, Christmas Holiday, based on the 1939 novel by W. Somerset Maugham. I’d hear her lovely voice, which I didn’t inherit, crooning “And winter continues cold, as if to say that spring will be, a little slow to start, a little slow reviving,” and know something was up. If it was a tiff between my parents, she might segue into, “I’m  Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair,” while he responded with “Bloody Mary is the Girl I Love.”             Today, the first day of spring, is frigid here in New England where the fourth Nor’easter since March slammed […]

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Winter Storm

 Winter’s got me in a slump. Short days, long nights. Subzero temperatures. Ice storms that shut down cities. Layers and layers, so many layers, of clothing. Enough, already. Bring on Spring.Writing’s tough for me when I’ve got the winter doldrums. My brain wants to hibernate from November through mid-March, not devise intricate plots and perilous situations for my characters to overcome. Winter is my antagonist.Which makes me think—can the season or the weather act as a character in a story? I answer my own question—sure. Person versus nature is as classic a battle as person versus person or person versus self. In Murder on the Orient Express, winter weather stops the train. Snow is as much the bad guy as the killer. Snow makes another appearance as an opposing force in J. Jefferson Farjeon’s Mystery in White. The title of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s In the Bleak Midwinter leaves no doubt the season plays a role in the plot. Peter Hoeg’s Smila’s Sense of Snow hinges on the protagonist’s knowledge of the frigid stuff.Writing this, I notice novels featuring winter-as-opposing-force come to mind more readily than novels where spring, summer, or fall weather drive the plot. Probably because, to me, weather is […]

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Seasonal Writing

I wrapped my favorite gray cashmere scarf around my neck this week. Sure, the autumnal equinox may technically have occurred on September 21st, but depending on where you live, the seasons do (or do not) change in their own time. I live where sweaters replace light cotton tops. Robust Cabernet takes the place of crisp Sancerre. For me, there’s something about the seasons that makes a difference in my approach to work. Cool falls in New York and our (sometimes) frigid winters provide plenty of excuses to stay inside, curled up next to a roaring fire reading and writing. Cooler weather makes me want to spend more time dreaming up murders. I wonder, though, do others feel that same seasonal affective writing syndrome? So, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors whether changes in the seasons influence how and what they write. This is what they had to say: Paula: I’m not sure if what I’m writing changes with the seasons, but certainly my output changes with the seasons. I write best when it’s raining or snowing or otherwise inclement. I love winter. As long as I have heat and wifi and Earl Grey tea, I’m good. I’m off and writing until Spring! Robin: Definitely. I look forward to winters as a block of time to make serious […]

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Don't Mess with Mother Nature

 I spent the weekend the way I imagine most of the rest of the country spent it—watching or reading about the horror unfolding in Houston and other parts of Texas hit by Hurricane Harvey. Unprecedented flooding, hundreds of highways closed, cutting off escape, untold numbers of people trapped or displaced, billions of dollars in damage. Images and stories of destruction reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina. Nature kicking humankind in the ass, reminding us it’s more powerful than our built environment, telling us our high-tech gizmos can’t save us. Forcing us to rely on human ingenuity and grit. Nature as antagonist is a common theme in stories. Movies like Volcano and Twister tell viewers upfront who—or what—the hero will have to overcome to save herself, her friends, the neighborhood, the planet. Every good story gives the hero a worthy antagonist is the mantra you learn in writing workshops and guidebooks. But an antagonist—the force that opposes the protagonist, the obstacle between the hero and her goal—doesn’t have to be human. Wo/man can face opposition from technology, society, animals, surroundings, weather. The force of weather can turn an otherwise mundane, familiar, bucolic setting into a strange, terrifying, menacing hell. Greater Los Angeles becomes a […]

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Stormy Weather

 I’m scheduled to host a book signing today (Thursday) to promote my second novel, Death in D Minor. I’ve booked a venue and a caterer, I’ve ordered pastries from the local bakery, I have swag and gift bags. And I have my fingers crossed I don’t get washed out. Horrid, extreme weather has hit my area with the force of a crashing meteor. Flooding, power outages, early business closures. A sharknado spinning by wouldn’t surprise me. The dark clouds that rolled across yesterday’s morning sky made 9 a.m. look like 9 p.m. Traffic was more terrifying than a Doré engraving. The weather people predict more of the same for today. Please let them be as wrong as they are when they predict sun on my days off. Yesterday’s bad weather did get me thinking about weather in literature. Weather, usually extreme, often sets the scene and creates an atmosphere without which the story wouldn’t be the same. Would The Shining be as terrifying on a warm spring day? Would Cat on a Hot Tin Roof feel as sultry and on-edge in the dead of winter? Can you imagine Usher’s house falling at noon in the summer sun? Moving beyond “a dark and […]

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