Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It’s that time of year...

Blechta here.

I’ve often wondered how stories (my own included) come to be set in a specific time of year. Apart from those books where the season is a crucial part of the plot, is it an accident or a conscious decision on the part of the writer?

There are certainly novels, that by their very nature need to be set at a specific time of the year. Giles Blunt’s incredible Black Fly Season is one that comes to mind, Peter Robinson’s In a Dry Season is another. (They also happen to be favourites of mine.) You could hardly set these stories in another time of year and expect them to have the same weight. In Giles’ case, it also obviously wouldn’t work in fall or winter, or even late summer for that matter because there ain’t no black flies – and at the very least, he would have lost a terrific title. In Peter’s book's case, the reasons are more subtle. Yes, the town wouldn’t have appeared from its watery grave unless there were a drought, but I’m sure Peter could have invented the bursting of a dam or some other plot device to accomplish this deed. In his case, though, the weather becomes a tangible part of the plot and works beautifully.

But back to the rest of us: why or how do we make our choices? For the novel I’m currently finishing up, The Fallen One, I could have set it in the dead of winter or in spring, or even summer (although that would have necessitated a number of plot changes in order to work). Right from the beginning, though, I visualized it taking place in the fall. Why? I wish I could tell you. It just felt “right” set in the months where the weather is getting cooler.

So, you writers out there, does the time of year weigh heavily as one of the choices for the setting of your stories or novels? Does it just happen? Are you always conscious of this choice when you conceive your works?

Inquiring minds want to know!

7 comments:

Charles benoit said...

Oooooh, good question! I'm writing my blog post on this topic.

Jared said...

And it also depends on whether or not the place you're writing about even HAS seasons. Having watched plenty of Noir recently, many of which are set in LA, seasons don't come in to play. But when they do, as in NIGHTFALL, it is a specific plot point, like roads freezing over and not being accessible till Spring.

Rick Blechta said...

Jared, I hadn't thought about places that don't have "seasons", perhaps because I've never written about them. I suppose the only place where weather or seasons would be involved is if the Santa Ana winds or wild fires would be involved since both of those are seasonal.

Of course, here in Canada, weather is always a hot topic -- or should I say cold topic?

NL Gassert said...

My setting is Guam. No seasons. It's always hot and humid. But there are a lot of holidays and certain times of the year are busier than others (e.g. think Florida and Spring Break). The current story I’m working on relies heavily on the influx of tourists and the resulting work stress on my protagonist.

Donis Casey said...

My series is set in Oklahoma on a farm. Weather and the seasons are almost as important to how I construct the story as the characters are.

Vicki Delany said...

I usually set my books in the season I happen to be in when starting to write it. Which means that it is mid-summer when I'm finishing the winter story. For December's Winter of Secrets, the title sort of necessitated the season, as did the plot which is a group of students on a ski vacation at Christmas.

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