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Incorporating the weather into your fiction

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

I am intensely interested in the weather – where it comes from, who or what causes it, and how it plays out. So, it isn’t a big leap to figure out that I start chapter one in the Beyond mystery novel I am currently writing with the main character, Dana Bowman, dealing with weather. And that isn’t as simple as it sounds.

First, you need the weather appropriate to the time frame of your story. Although using a present-day setting, if the weather is severe and floods are a big part, you will probably be right on. However, it is always best to check with reliable weather sources online for weather on any day or in any time frame.

If you set your story anywhere in the past, you need to have the weather at least based on the weather situation then. Where you set your story will also factor in. For example, you probably wouldn’t have a tornado in California, but you might have very dry weather causing forest fires. On the flip side of the weather coin, you can use some weather conditions that occurred in the past as part of your story, part of the conflicts that occur in your plot. Think going out in a sailboat and getting caught in a storm. Of course, like all plots you have to build up the suspense and that includes impending storms. You need to connect the weather to your characters. Perhaps your main character is terrified of tornadoes or thunderstorms. Why? That would be part of your story and you can also blend that terror in with what the main character may have to do at the climax. Maybe your protagonist is in that sailboat with a friend who is actually the sailor. The protagonist may have to try to save the day if the sailor is injured, falls overboard, etc.

The weather can also play a creepy role in your novel – especially thrillers and horror. I am reminded of the 1960 movie Midnight Lace starring Doris Day (yes, I know, that dates me) where Rex Harrison as her husband appears to be stalking her as she walks through the London fog.

So sometimes the weather becomes like another character in your fiction. The weather possibilities are endless.

Even if you don’t have weather playing a major part, you don’t want your character going out in a snowstorm in shorts and a T-shirt. Or heading for the beach in a fur coat. Unless that is part of their eccentricity or they are on a modelling or music video assignment.

And don’t forget to give some reference to the weather in your story, but incorporate it into your story so it doesn’t read like an extended weather dissertation.

And what is my main character Dana Bowman facing weather-wise in the Beyond novel currently being written, which begins in late November 1999? She is walking in the rain.

But I have one extenuating circumstance here. My setting is a fictitious small city I call Thurston, Ontario. Thurston is located just north of Toronto where Aurora and Newmarket are. When I checked historical record data (three sources online), neither place had historical weather listings, so I went to the closest – Richmond Hill, Ontario and that’s what I’m using. With fictitious locations, you can be somewhat creative with the weather – within reason (see above about fur coats and shorts). Check out the real location in the general area of your made-up place and see what the weather is/was like there. Again, you don’t want snowstorms in California.

However, if you are writing fantasy or science fiction, the sky is the limit (pun intended).

Do you use weather as an important part of your fiction and how do you do so?

Comments please.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Sharon A. Crawford is the author of the Beyond book series. More info at www.samcraw.com and www.bluedenimpress.com – my publisher – you can also purchase e-books – both Kindle and Kobo from Blue Denim Press. Click on the Beyond Blood Book cover at the top of this post.

 

 

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Short Story and Novel Writing with Series Characters – Part 4

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.'s short story collection

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.

– William Faulkner
When writing series fiction, particularly novels, how do you keep the continuity going with your main characters from novel to novel? As mentioned in last week’s post, you need to put some reference to previous novel(s) plot and characters or the reader is left confused.

For example, in novel No. 1, let’s say your main character, a police officer, is shot during the story’s climax. It is touch and go, but he wakes up in a hospital bed and is able to talk to his partner, his girlfriend, etc. However, he has been shot in the chest and it just missed his heart, but he still has a long recuperation period.

Unless you are skipping a period of time until he is up and around, you need to include this recuperation period in your next novel. Perhaps your detective is put temporarily on a desk job or he is still on sick leave. His (or her) colleagues get a case or two that he wants to be involved in and they need his help. But he is supposed to stay put. You can work around that by having him act as a consultant – his colleagues can drop into the hospital or recuperation facility (if he is not home yet) or his home to talk it over with him. He could be on the phone constantly to his colleagues or at least his partner. They can be doing all this behind the back of their supervisor and you know how that can pan out. You can hype it up with his shooter still out there (that would have to be clear at the end of the previous novel) and trying to get him. He has to get through the recuperation period but you don’t want a novel all about that if you are writing a mystery novel. You need to blend in what is happening with the characters, how they are developing based on what goes on in their lives. An injured detective recuperating and somewhat immobilized would have much to face, especially if he is used to being active.

The late Robert Parker in his Spencer series did this very well. His private detective, Spencer, was shot in the chest in one novel and the next novel incorporated his recuperation with how it affected his relationship with his girlfriend, Susan, a psychologist, plus the novel’s mystery. Parker was good at writing complicated.

Most of the TV series now follow the main characters’ development and well, private life, and incorporate these into the story. The hit series Rookie Blue (now back on for the summer, 22 episodes this year), does that very well, even if you don’t agree with what they do. The five original rookies are still there and each season they add one or more new rookies. One of the original rookies has been promoted to detective. But all have personal lives and with all these characters who work closely together, their personal lives become entwined and changes occur. It is complicated, but well done. I suggest you watch it. The Good Wife is another TV series that has work and personal lives intermingle with a lot of complications. This time the characters are lawyers, instead of police officers. They even killed off one of the series main characters this season. Rookie Blue did that a couple of seasons ago as well. Killing off a main character is not always a good idea, but if you do, you need to incorporate the repercussions from that and how it affects the other characters in future books or TV episodes.

All these things will affect your plot. It’s the chicken and egg situation. Which comes first – the plot or the characters? It is a combination of both – either can lead – but both are connected and drive each other.

Meantime, read any of the mystery series novels by Peter Robinson and see how he handles continuity and consistency in character and plot.
Also, you can read more about the characters and their stories in Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at http://www.amazon.com. The book is available there in print and Kindle. For Kobo e-book go to http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/beyond-the-tripping-point or go to any bricks and mortar store and order in a print copy. Spread the word.
More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html

Sharon A. Crawford’s prequel novel Beyond Blood, featuring the fraternal twins will be published fall 2014 by Blue Denim Press. Stay tuned.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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