I live in the Arizona desert and I’ve seen the temperatures get as high as 128 degrees. We don’t have much rain, although sometimes during the monsoon season we get more than you can imagine. Friday night there was a huge storm with high winds, thunder and lightning. The cleanup took a couple of days, with a smaller storm hitting in the afternoon and causing more cleanup duties.
My house is for sale and I’ll be moving to Washington state where it rains – a lot. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m looking forward to the move.
Don’t get me wrong; I love Arizona, but a new chapter has started in my life and I need some changes.
You may be wondering why I’m talking about weather and moving, when I write a mystery blog. How often, in mysteries, is there a chase scene? Or a scenario where someone is conducting a surveillance? How about trying to sneak around a location?
In a chase scene, you can’t just say, “He ran after the bad guy.” No, you’ve got to include what your character has to endure and face. Needless to say, this is a foot chase. Think about it. What if the chase needs to take place during an extreme hot spell? When you walk outside and the temperature is 128 degrees, it feels like you just opened an oven door and stood in front of it, hoping it would cool off. The ground is so hot you can feel it, or almost feel it, through your shoes. You might start to sweat profusely, or you don’t sweat at all until you walk back inside, and then you can’t cool off. The sweat is running into your eyes and down your back and chest.
Now a monsoon storm moves in. You’re not only already worn out from the heat, but high winds and thunder inhibit your efforts to catch the murderer, thief, or what have you.
What about the surveillance scenario? You might sit in a car and watch someone, but chances are if you’re there for any length of time you can’t keep the engine running so you can use the air conditioning. Cars become very hot, very fast. I’ve climbed into a hot car during the summer in the desert and found I couldn’t sit on the hot seat. I couldn’t hold onto the hot steering wheel. (You learn to park facing away from the sun or you put a sun screen in your car window.)
A foot chase in the heat and during a storm? Either the good guy or the bad guy, or both, may drop from heat stroke, if they’re not struck by lightning.
At the other end of the spectrum, imagine trying to sneak around with pouring rain slowing you down. Imagine mud sloshing into your shoes, and imagine your clothing becoming soaking wet. Of course, the heat can cause the same clothing problem. Ahem. Let’s move on. Now our characters are wet and cold. The good guy sees the bad guy exit a building and the chase is on. You can add slipping to the list of problems.
Of course, if the villain slips and falls, you might be able to add a little humor to this scene. Well, even if it’s the protagonist, you can add humor and let the bad guy get away, to be sought on another day.
You climb into your car to chase the suspect. I wonder if your wet or damp hands might slip off the steering wheel. The sole of your shoe might slip off the brake pedal. Hmmm. That could aid the bad guy in getting away once again.
When you’re creating a scene that includes weather issues, you can go in any direction and you can make the effort more interesting with just a bit of description. The elements can add something scary to the scene, or it can add humor. Frustration is always a possibility, too. I’ve only touched on heat and rain. There’s always snow to make things more interesting. High winds can cause all kinds of issues.
When writing a mystery, the author needs to picture himself or herself in just such a circumstance. Imagine every possibility, or remember your own reaction to unmerciful weather. Did your power go out during extreme heat or cold?
Make it real, and the reader will feel like they’re right there with your characters.
How do you think you’d react to the stifling heat I’ve mentioned, or any other major weather?
Until next time, stay cool and stay dry. Enjoy your summer and create some great memories. And wish me luck on selling the house.
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If you like the idea of finding a ghost town before anyone else has seen it, give Old Murders Never Die - A Sandi Webster Mystery a try. You’re sure to find a mystery in an old ghost town.