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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lovely weather we're having...

Still hyper-focused on body language I realized that my posts have overlooked another silent character: The Weather.

For everyone up in orbit weather is just a pretty way of decorating a planet. For everyone stuck down a gravity well weather is a serious issue. Characters don't "walk" in a rainstorm. They squelch, slog, swim, or grumble while their hair plasters to their heads and their toes freeze.

On the first pass through a novel most authors state that it's raining somewhere, and leave it at that. They don't just leave the weather mute, they hog tie it and shove it in a locked dungeon! The weather needs more respect than that.

In a well written novel the weather is a silent character that is always on scene, always making a contribution. Like the unseen puppet master who runs the villain, the weather is influencing the characters, changing the plot, posing a threat. The weather needs to be there. Make it heard.

Editing to Make the Weather Heard

Step 1: Make a List
Go scene by scene and make a list of the location and the weather. A thunderstorm while you're climbing a cliff face is different than a thunder storm while you're snuggled in bed. You need to know where you are so you can know what to write. Space ships and space stations don't have much weather so you can count scenes there as freebies.

Step 2: Get Outside
The sad truth of writing is that many of us are indoor hermits. It doesn't matter that we write about heroes who daringly dash across the universe in search of adventure (or easy money), authors tend to be indoors. That's where the computer is. And for peoples juggling a full-time job while writing the few hours saved for writing are often in the evening.

To write the weather well you need to remember what sunshine feels like. Ditch the laptop and the cell phone, grab a notepad and pen, and step outside. Go for a walk, take a hike, or just sit and observe for a few hours.

Step 3: Give Me Twenty
For every scene of weather list twenty words that describe, influence, or remind you of that weather. For example, one of characters is out dune surfing on a desert planet in the bright spring sunshine. For that scene I have:
-blue sky
- wind
- scent of cactus blossom
- heat
- warm rocks
- gold sand
- dancing sand in a gust
- fluffy white clouds
- sweat
- changeable wind
- shade of a dune
And so on.

For a stormy night I might list:
- fog
- squelch
- mud
- mud sucking on boots
- dripping
- cascade
- rumble
- thunder
- violent lightening

When it's time to edit the scene I look for places where I can replace vague body actions like walk or step with something that interacts with the weather.

"Shelia walked to Mark's house."

Sunny day -> "Sunlight warmed Shelia's face as she skipped across the meadow of poppies to Mark's house."

Thunder storm -> "Rain dripped from Shelia's nose as she slogged up the muddy path to Mark's house."

How do you handle weather in writing?

P.S. Today's picture is my own. The bright light is the afternoon sun as a storm rolls in. That's summer down here. :o)

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