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!