Monday, January 7, 2019

Rainy Sunday


 I really need an updated picture. One of these days...

It’s a dark, rainy Sunday as I write this, and it's a perfect day for snuggling up on the couch with a good mystery. Unfortunately, instead of that I’m writing a story that takes place during a major heatwave. It’s a bit difficult to write about the heat when I’m sitting at my desk, thinking I should get up and start the fireplace. I moved to Washington from Arizona, and I have to think back to what it was like during the summer in Arizona. Plus, the story takes place in Los Angeles.

Location is so important in a book. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve written enough to help the reader “visit” the location. Arizona, Washington and Los Angeles are so vastly different from each other. I can picture the location in my mind, but can the reader?

A lot of things depend on location, location, location: setting up a business, buying a home, planning a vacation, the setting for a fictional story. And when planning where a story will take place, you also have to think of regional issues such as earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, monsoon storms and snow, rain or heat. Even a volcanic eruption can be an issue, depending on where the story takes place.

Last night was quite windy here, and it was pouring rain. I’d just gone to bed when the wind picked up and the roof on the patio began lifting just enough to bang loudly when it dropped. At first I thought someone was trying to break into the house, but, surprisingly, the dogs didn’t react. I hadn’t noticed the wind when I had the television on. I couldn’t sleep and if my characters were in this situation, they wouldn’t get any sleep either. (Lucky dogs slept right through it.)

Your characters are in the middle of a thunder storm? Are there dogs or cats in the story? How do they react to the situation?

Have you ever lived through an earthquake? A hurricane? Don’t write about these things unless you have experience or a good “go to” witness to these disasters.

So it’s more than just location. It’s what the location is like if there’s an emergency. What’s possible at the location you’ve chosen for the story? There are so many details to consider when writing a story. You can research a blizzard, but if you haven’t lived through one you’re liable to get it wrong. At least talk to someone who’s lived through a blizzard, earthquake or something that could be devastating.

Of course, what if it’s just an average day and the weather is great, the air is clear and there’s a pleasant breeze? Be sure to let the reader know that’s what the day is like, but don’t tell them, show them. Let them figuratively walk in your character’s shoes. Maybe it’s nighttime and the weather is comfortable and clear. What might set this evening apart? Maybe the sound of hundreds of frogs croaking. There’s always something to remark on.

The book I’m currently working on involves some homeless people. It’s an extremely hot summer. It’s so hot out you could cook eggs on the sidewalk. In Oatman, Arizona, an historic tourist town, they actually have a contest involving cooking eggs on the sidewalk. Now that’s hot!

Right now I can look out the window and watch the rain fall. I’ve got the fireplace going and the three dogs are lying around the house, sleeping. It’s so quiet – except for the ticking of a clock. If the phone rang right now it would probably scare me out of a year’s growth. Okay, I stopped growing a long time ago, but you get the idea.

I started out talking about location, location, location, but it’s really about details, details, details. Sometimes the little things count, as long as you don’t go overboard with those details.

Now I’m chuckling. Rereading this post tells me that I’m running out of ideas. Or am I?

As a writer or as a reader, do you want those little details to enhance the story? Do you want to feel like you’re walking through a blizzard with the character in the book?

Until next time, think about where you live and the types of things that go on around you. Maybe you’re not a writer, but can you use your imagination and come up with a story about your day (in the rain, snow, or whatever)?

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11 comments:

  1. Good post! One of the things you wrote stood out to me. You're writing a book in the winter that takes place during a hot summer and you mentioned how you're using your memory of Arizona summers to help you visualize and write about that. I had to smile because I understood exactly what you meant and I realized that, out of my six books, only one takes place in the summer, which happens to be my favorite season. No doubt that's because I seem to start writing most of my books in the fall/winter. Interesting.

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    1. Thank you, Pat! You're right. Our environment can determine when a story takes place. If you (the general you) look outside and the leaves are falling, it's snowing, the sun is baking our plants, these things can unconsciously drive a story. In my case, the book is going to be titled "People Lookin' Half Dead," and that drove the time of year for my new story. Thank you so much for commenting!

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  2. It's funny you should mention writing about a heat wave while you sit in the cold weather, because that's exactly what I've been doing. I found a YouTube channel that plays crickets, frogs, etc. at night. The sounds of summertime help me get in the mood to write about summer.

    Unlike Pat, summer is my least favorite season! Looking back at the books I've written, it seems my favorite time to write about is fall/winter. Probably because I love fall and winter. :)

    Great post!

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    1. Thank you, Amy! I much prefer heat to cold, but sometimes it can be a bit much. I never thought about playing sound effects. Good idea. Thanks for mentioning it! And thank you for commenting!

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  3. All good suggestions, Marja. Another thing to consider when writing a crime series, particularly if you note a season/year in the story--don't start the next one in the same time period. That could be both embarrassing and unrealistic. I like Amy's suggestion about the YouTube. That could provide a mood.

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    1. You're right, John. If you're writing a series, either move into a new time of year or let an entire year pass. I like Amy's suggestion, too. Thank you so much for commenting!

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  4. It's funny that you should post this today, because it's a cold, rainy day where I am. But there's no wind or thunder. If there was, my dog would be trying to climb in my lap. She's not calm like your dogs. A little noise and she's a basket case. If there's thunder at night, she climbs in my bed and tries to tunnel under my pillow. She's a big dog, but quite as big as your two labs. Thanks for another great post, it got me thinking.

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    1. My dogs usually do okay, Evelyn, but my daughter's dog (a Chiwienie) is another story. When something scares her, she'll climb right up your chest and onto your shoulder. If you're in bed, she'll climb by your head and pull on your hair. LOL She's a rescue dog, though, so I give her room. I can't imagine a larger dog, like yours, reacting that way. You're not all that big so she must be a handful. I guess we just have to laugh at them and try to calm them down. Thank you so much for commenting!

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  5. Its really an amazing way of writing and I really enjoyed the way it was written. I am waiting for your future response as well.

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    1. Thank you, Danai! I hope you'll return and I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you so much for commenting!

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  6. A good post. If you ever publish a book I will be glad to read it. I write a small blog in my website and run a small painting business. Do visit sometime. Restoration Services Perth

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