This isn’t Really About the Weather

Honest. It just starts out that way.

It’s been raining so much here in Oklahoma that Green Country has turned into Soggy-Damp-Moldy Country. I’m not sure how much more of this I — and my yard — can take. And yes, I know I’ll be whining in July, “Please let it rain!!”

But what I really want to write about today is weather as it applies to books. There used to be a TV show called “Stingray” that had a really gorgeous guy whose name, of course, I can’t remember. I always loved the premise: this mystery guy who drives a black Stingray goes around righting wrongs and helping people out of trouble, and the only payment he asks for is a promise that if he ever calls, needing the person’s assistance, they’ll give it, no questions asked.

There was one episode that involved a best-selling mystery novelist, an elderly lady who lived with her sister in a fussy old-woman type house. It had the old-time feel of Mike Hammer and ’40s mystery films, and through practically the entire show, it rained. The rain was such an element in the show that it was practically a secondary character. It was a great episode — wonderfully manipulative and twisting.

SLOW HEAT IN HEAVEN wasn’t the first Sandra Brown book I ever read, but it was by far my favorite. It takes place in the bayou, with an uber-bad boy hero, and the heat and the mugginess and the sultriness just encompassed me as I read. I was in that bayou, sweating right alongside the characters, hearing the whine of the gnats, smelling the damp and trying to breathe through the humidity. It was something I tried for — and think I achieved — in my first single title, IN SINFUL HARMONY.

I can’t think of a similar example for cold in books, though one movie scene does come to mind: in “The Hunt for Red October,” at the beginning when Sean Connery and Sam Neill are looking out over the bay before the sub sets out. It looks and “feels” so cold that I shiver every time I see it.

I love when the weather becomes such an integral part of the story — when I can feel that bead of sweat trickling down my spine, when I’d give damn near anything to see the sun shine, when the squishiness in my shoes or the heavy damp clinging to my skin is so real that I can believe I’m right there. Of course, you can’t just say, “It was hot,” and expect the same response. Like everything else in writing, it’s an art, a thread woven in so subtly that the reader hardly notices it until she’s enveloped in it.

I heard someone say once that you should always open a book with either weather or time. (Huh???) I don’t agree with that, obviously — though it might take some pressure off of us for coming up with great opening hooks, LOL. But I’m surprised by how many books I read where we never know what the weather is. It doesn’t have to be in the first paragraph or even on the first page, but somewhere in the first chapter, I want to be set in the scene. Where are we? What season is it? Bright sunny day, icy cold night, rainy, dry, dusty, etc.

Weather is all around us; it affects so many of our decisions, and it can be great for getting your reader deep into your story. And it’s easy — no research required.

Though, yeah, I think before any of us writes a hot summer day beach scene, we should get the opportunity to experience it firsthand!

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7 thoughts on “This isn’t Really About the Weather

  1. It was a dark and stormy morning—NOT, here today at this moment. I’m sure I’ve jinxed it now. 🙂
    IN SINFUL HARMONY did convey that humidity and heaviness, but in all your books you allow the reader to ‘feel’ what is going on. The first book of yours that I really ‘felt’ the weather was MURPHY’S LAW.

    THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER is still one of my favorite movies and books! I wore out my VHS tape!

    Weather plays a part in my stories, but I think now I’ll be more aware. I know it certainly affects my mood. Meg

    • Oh, man, I forgot — one of my favorite scenes in MURPHY’S LAW was when he’s out in the rain watching Evie’s house. That’s probably tied for first for my favorites of all my categories — along with SWEET ANNIE’S PASS. (Gee, two books that couldn’t be more different!)

      Bob watched Red October until the vcr died. I’ve got to find it on DVD now.

  2. I’m back. Did you miss me? Work has been INSANE and if I could find another job – even digging graves in the Louisiana bayou – I would take it! If I could get a strand of hair from this manager over us he would be SO voodoo cursed !!

    I too am trying hard to get all of the senses into my stories. I even have an index card posted with a reminder next to my writing desk.

    I have to agree that weather is a great way to add a completely unpredictable character to your plot. It’s an easy way to set a scene and I think it is sometimes terribly overlooked.

    • LOL, Louisa. I once gave a friend a voodoo doll that I’d picked up in New Orleans as a gag gift. I found out after the friendship ended that she didn’t think it was funny at all; she was convinced that I had put a hex on her. She BURIED the doll with grains of salt and something else (supposed to counteract the curse) and destroyed every other gift I’d given her just to be safe.

      Can we say “unstable”?

      Gee . . . didn’t I see your name on a couple of contest winner/finalists lists???? If you don’t brag on yourself, I’ll have to dig ’em up and do it for you. Share the good news!

  3. I need to dig out a copy of ISH and reread it. 😉

    I had such fun writing that book. Bob was in Okinawa for six months, and every couple weeks, I’d mail him the latest chapter, because back then, he read everything I wrote. I was writing it between contracted books for Silhouette, so it took a while, but it was sheer pleasure to write.

    Can’t wait to see the Colorado story.

  4. Grains of salt and ashes of deadwood might do the trick unless the curse was bound in blood in which case you have to use some of your own blood to counter the curse. Dead wood by the way, is wood that has fallen from a tree onto a grave. And yes, your friend definitely had ISSUES !!!

    LOL on the Contest wins / finals. I am still stunned every time it happens.

    One of my love scenes from this year’s GH Finalist – The Raven’s Heart – won the Between the Sheets contest and got a request from Emmanuelle Alspaugh with the Judith Ehrlich Agency and a request from Gail Chasan with Harlequin. Both requests were for the full.

    The Raven’s Heart is also a finalist in the Spring into Romance and the Great Beginnings.

    And my third book (not yet finished EEK) is a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier, which is a real kick for me because The Raven’s Heart won th historical category of the Daphne last year.

    Can you say AMAZING week or so??

    The most fun was telling my Mom I won a sex scene writing contest! LOL

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