Monthly Archives: March 2014

Whatever the weather

Saturday morning… a glorious time. The morning after the night before… And to top it all off, a new month as well. I’m feeling pretty positive today. I have a ton of work to do, but I PROMISE I will do it. Honest Injun.

But first…

Let’s talk about the weather. As an Englishwoman I feel pretty well attuned to the weather. Having an opinion on the elements is hardwired into the DNA of my national stereotype, after all. This morning, helping my mood, the sun is out. Inspired by this I have opened my bedroom window (gasp!) though I’m sure I will regret that soon because it’s not actually that warm outside.

I think about the weather when I’m writing (if I’m writing. Sigh.) because it’s all part of the experience of the story. Just like in film. Even though it might not be as obvious in writing – a thunderclap isn’t quite so epic, come on – all those little atmospheric details go in and register in the reader’s brain.

At school, writing stories in English would inevitably make the teacher ask us “What was the weather like?” “What time of day was it?” because we were so focused on the action of the narrative nothing else occurred to us. It might also have been another way to boost word count. But mainly, it was to help us to realise that the reader does not automatically see from our writing what we saw in our heads when we wrote it. I can tend to have the opposite problem. I’ve written things before (yet another unfinished something) that I’ve shown parts of to friends who told me it was quite dense, quite description heavy. Well yes. I wanted them to see what I saw. Exactly. Exactly as I saw it. No. Other. Option. Yet as a reader I am happy to get into debates about what characters look like and how it differs from perhaps an official author-description or an actor who plays them in a film, or the cover art (see Chris McGrath’s Aragorn version of Logen Ninefingers on the cover of Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself).

I think I have to let go of that sort of thing. The weather on the other hand, can be fairly explicitly portrayed. And it can affect how we see a character or a plot point and the way we perceive the emotions tumbling out on the page. The weather can match or counter point a character or event.

When something awful happens: it’s more likely to be raining, or threatening rain.

When something cool is happening: sun, warmth, clear skies

That’s the basics. Obviously you have to take the season into account. Also, snow makes everything magical (I think this is a The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe cultural hangover – the Tumnus part, not the Jadis part).

Take this morning: I was jazzed! The sun! The warmth! Vibes! If it had been raining my mood probably wouldn’t have been so good, OR I’d have been bouncing off the walls to banish the gloom and keep my high. Same with the above. It’s almost as much of a stereotype to go against the weather for dramatic effect now as it is to go with it to enhance the overall emotion of a scene.

Something awful happens: The sun is a spiteful ball of joy in the sky. The warm summer breeze could not lift the chill in his heart.

Something good happens: Not even the darkest clouds could spoil the day! Electricity in the air from a storm just makes people more excited!

…aaaand snow makes everything magical.

The weather is so important to storytelling. Thomas Hardy was a big fan of scene setting. So much so that when we read Far From the Madding Crowd at school our same English teachers who told us to add weather details told us to skip three pages because it was all just Hardy waxing on about the bucolic joys of the countryside in spring. You win some you lose some.

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