Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What's in a Season?

Barbara here. Rick’s previous post about settings and seasons intrigued me. The season, and more specifically the weather, is an integral part of setting, providing the backdrop and the frame in which the story unfolds. Rain, sun, heat, snow, and the more extreme blizzards and hurricanes, all add to the mood of the scene, create tension and stress, and provide challenges like slippery roads, poor visibility or sweltering heat. All enrich the drama of the story and if vividly written, they help draw the reader into the scene.

In my own work, I choose the season almost before I choose the characters I need to tell the story. In the Inspector Green novels, the City of Ottawa is a given, but the weather can vary widely, so it’s one of the few variable I have left to play with. I love extremes – skin-melting heat, blizzards, thunderstorms – and Ottawa has four very distinct and compelling seasons. I like to write about them all, to allow for maximum variety, so I keep track of when each of the books is set. Beautiful Lie the Dead  is set in winter, indeed it starts off with a blizzard. The previous book, This Thing of Darkness, was set in the fall, Dreamchasers in early summer. And so on.

My upcoming book, The Whisper of Legends, is set in the summer, and I am already thinking about the season for my next book, which is in its fledgling conceptual phase. Each season provides its own beauty, its own menace and challenges. In this book, I picture secrets long hidden in a neglected rural house. Which season would serve that mystery best? Which creates the most vivid drama? A tangle of summer vines, a blanket of thick snow, or the first buddings of ferns and trilliums poking up through the damp loam? From that choice comes other scenes, my imagination layering ideas one upon the other. At the end of this process, that neglected rural house and indeed even the long-hidden secrets may be abandoned, but the trappings of the season may remain. All part of the creative fun.

Who knows where an image of ferns unfurling on the forest floor may lead?

4 comments:

Charlotte Hinger said...

Barbara, the first thing we do every single morning in Kansas is check the weather and the forecast for the rest of the day. Weather and the season is everything. Spring is when the tumbleweeds come and beat my tulips to death.

K.B. Gibson said...

I'm so glad to hear what you had to say about weather and setting. I, too, think it's important. It gives mysteries a bit of atmosphere, while giving the "location" more "character." My books are set in Oklahoma. The first was set in spring where the winds can and do whip anything around that's not nailed down. Now I'm working on a book that starts with Indian summer, but it will progress to icy blasts that travel up your pants!

Rick Blechta said...

Those "ferns" are actually still "fiddleheads", and in my other career as a food writer, I have to say they look mighty delicious!

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