S. Lee Manning: The topic for this month is weather and how it affects us as writers and readers. Or how we use weather as a character. Or how’s the weather? Or you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. (If you’re not from the 60s, look it up.)
Confession: writing this blog is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Already wrote and threw one draft out after looking at my husband’s face while he was reading it.
What idiot came up with this topic – oh, wait, it was me.
I thought it’d be interesting. Weather as character. After all, what would Game of Thrones be without the line, intoned with fear, “Winter is Coming” – and a lot of half frozen creatures coming over a wall of ice? What would The Long Hot Summerbe without a long hot summer – and a young, shirtless Paul Newman trying to cool down? What would The Producersbe like without “Springtime for
Hitler?” What would Europe look like today if 75 years ago, there hadn’t been a Russian winter?
Weather matters. In real life, it matters a lot. That’s why I’m sitting in a condo here in Margate, Florida, where there’s always someone blowing leaves or cutting grass or playing television too loud, because everyone here is old and can’t hear worth a damn – instead of holed up in my office in Vermont with views of woods and mountains, and acres of land between me and my closest neighbor. It’s 77 degrees here, noise and all, and in Vermont, in the calm and beauty of the mountains, it’s a balmy 17 degrees. Weather matters.
It’s just hard to write about.
Think about it. It affects us and our moods, and what we do, and how we dress, but how long a conversation do you really have about weather?
Then you go on to talk about something more likely to get you into a fight but more engaging, like politics or religion…(or climate change, which is again about weather but which I’m not writing about today, even though it’s real).
So, I’m going to do what I always do when faced with a blog and have no idea what to write. I’m going to make a list. And here you are, six suggestions on how to write about weather.
1. Be realistic.
If the novel starts in October in New Jersey, check out what typical temperatures are – and typical weather. Don’t have it snow. It snows in Vermont in October – sometimes – but not in Jersey, usually. Well, caveat, there was a Halloween snow a few years ago in Trenton, back
when I still lived there. It knocked out our power for a day – but that was weird and atypical, although the weather is getting weird and more atypical all the time. (Climate change?)Go for typical weather.
2. Be consistent
. If you have snow on page 50, don’t have anyone cutting the grass on page 60, unless they flew from Vermont to Florida; then it’s fine. Otherwise, nope. Climate change is real, but it doesn’t work that fast.
3. Extreme weather can play into the plot
. It can be another obstacle that the protagonist has to fight and overcome. Work it. Have the hero battling a hurricane or trapped in a blizzard – with the villain. And five cats.
Winter is coming. Oh yeah, definite reader interest, especially with the five cats.
4. If your character is driving in Vermont in the winter
, and she’s not an idiot, put her in a Subaru or a 4×4 pick-up truck. Okay, this isn’t so much a suggestion about writing as it is about traveling in Vermont in the winter. Don’t drive there in a mini-van, even if you bought a min-van, because you drove a carpool and had two kids and two German Shepherds and a cat, because you’ll be on the side of the road, watching the Subarus whizz by you, laughing, until you trudge through five feet of snow to find a farmer with a tractor who will tow you to a paved section of road. Not that I know anyone who did that. (Whistling.)
5. Unless you’re making the weather into a plot device or a symbolic device
, don’t spend too much time on it. Scroll above to reported conversation about weather. Not that interesting.
6. Like any other rule for writing
, take every one of these suggestions with a grain of salt – which is kind of how I wrote them anyway.
Now, armed with my suggestions, you are ready to face any weather related writing. Or not. But I’m ready to wrap this up, because it’s 77 degrees, and I’m going for a walk. Winter may be coming, but I’m in Margate, baby.