Monday, July 23, 2012

The natural world

Last week's posts by Rick and Barbara about the seasons really struck a chord with me since, prompted by the return of the sun after weeks of rain and dismal grey skies, I 'd already planned to write about the weather myself.

At the moment I'm working through the copy edits for my new DI Marjory Fleming book, Evil for Evil.  Since the series is set in a country area, the weather plays a huge part in the plots, whether it's rain, snow, fog, or even - less likely, as Rick says - hot sunshine.  (Yes, even in south-west Scotland we get that sometimes.)

The difficulty for me comes when the time of year in the book isn't the time of year it is when I'm writing it, and the problem is compounded when I'm writing a new book and revising the previous one and neither coincides with the season I'm experiencing at the moment.  When I'm writing a description I have to be careful that I don't talk about the leaves on the trees that I see when I look out of the window, when it's winter as far as the book is concerned.

The other problem is keeping track of the plants and flowers that will be out in a particular season.  Does the heather on the hillsides bloom in early spring, or not until later?  Do the daffodils come out before the bluebells or the other way around?

And the birds - when do swallows leave, and is there an autumn dawn chorus or do birds only sing when they're nesting?  It seems like something I should remember but I don't.

Even apart from the seasonal things, nature is always causing problems.  How long does the moon take to wax and wane, and can I be sure I haven't written something about a full moon and followed it with a dark night sky a couple of days later?   What time does the sun rise in, say, mid-September?

And then there's the sea, which features in several of my books.  Working out how high the tide will be at any given time when it affects my characters' activities is a nightmare involving tide tables, calculations on sheets and sheets of paper and a lot of muttered imprecations.

I love the magic of beautiful scenery and I love writing about it, but I do sometimes feel that writing a book set in the concrete jungle might be a lot more restful.


Charlotte Hinger said...

Aline, since I write exclusively about Kansas everything is simplified. The season is wind, wind and more wind. Spring is when the tumbleweeds come and beat my tulips to death.

Aline Templeton said...

In this last spell we've had all four seasons in the course of a couple of days. There's a Highland saying, 'If you don't like the weather, wait a minute,' but this summer what it changes to isn't much good either!