Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The Role of Weather in Fiction.
by Louis Bertrand Shalako
All Rights Reserved
Weather plays an important role in fiction. When writing a story, it is surprising how often the weather outside somehow makes it into the story. In ‘Heaven Is Too Far Away,’ which involves a lot of WW I flying, it is only natural that weather comes to the forefront in much of the action, and of course over a long story seasonal changes play a role as well.
Describing winter flying is easy enough for the typical radio-control pilot, as we don’t get to sit in a nice warm cabin. I have flown models in -25 Celsius temperatures with winds of 25-35 k’s right in the face. The first thing that happens is the eyes water up, and there really is a chance of freezing your eyeballs.
The most vulnerable parts of the body in terms of frostbite would be the fingers and the ears.
In writing science fiction, for example in my as-yet unreleased fourth novel, ‘Time-storm,’ the weather on an alien planet can be fun, interesting and challenging to write about. When creating an entire ecosystem for your characters to run around in, if the planet is hot, this has some bearing on the attire or wardrobe! If it’s cold, they either dress for it or freeze. It is just that simple, although whether they’re in silver-lame body suits, or the more modern ‘insul-suits,’ as I used in ‘Time-storm,’ is the option of the artist.
When describing an alien species, one has to think of the environment that it inhabits. For that reason the Altheans, the native aliens in 'Time-storm,' have short, dark fur, short muzzles, their ears are small and tightly bundled up to the head, and they have all sorts of other environmental adaptations. These evolutionary changes are all driven by the climate zone, as well as seasonal temperature variations in the area they live in, i.e. all weather related.
It just occurred to me that fantasy, as opposed to science fiction, leaves evolution out of the picture—and wizards and magicians control the weather. The really strange thing is; that I never knew that until after I wrote it. I guess that’s one reason why we do it. You learn something new every day in this business.
Fantasy has its own weather. In ‘Shape-shifters,’ as yet unreleased, Jean Gagnon arrives in the town of Scudmore just a few weeks before Christmas. All the action, indoors and out, is affected by the fact that it is winter, and Jean spends some time show shoveling. Other characters in the book take off to Florida, or just spend time in gossip at the local coffee shop. All the outdoor scenes take winter into account. Plot-wise I even take advantage of it, in the sense that everyone is leaving tracks, or suffers if they’re not dressed for the conditions, or merely wonders how they are going to pay the gas bill. Before running out of the house, characters might take time to put on a coat.
Life, (or fiction,) is a series of conflicts, in the sense that we all have our own selfish interests. Winter just adds an additional burden to those characters, in the case of ‘Shape-shifters.’
To some degree weather might play a role in our moods or perceptions. As writers, the mood we are in undoubtedly has some effect on what we write.
Author Update as of May 31. 2012. 'The Shape-Shifters' and other books menitoned in the text are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Sony, Diesel Books, etc. Interestingly enough, tomorrow I begin work on my second mystery novel. The first scene is an easy one. It's called, 'A body in the Seine,' and it's taking shape in my head as a grey, miserable day where the focus is not on gore, or grossing out the reader so much as drawing attention to the humble nature of most of such incidents. There is no ID on the body, and the attending gendrames are tired and grumpy from being up all through a busy night shift. It's grit rather than gristle.
The scene is Paris, in 1926. The book pays some homage to John Dickson Carr, a master of the locked-room mystery. I will be putting a twist on things, don't worry about that. The thing is half plotted out now. There will be some sensuality in there, but not erotica per se. A little full frontal nudity never hurt anyone!
Especially if it's done properly...
For more on this project and what goes into writing a mystery novel, check out 'The Art of Murder.'
According to the Weather Network, we're looking at a solid twnety-four hours of precipitation, and chilly temperatures, so again, this will be incorporated into the novel, in terms of sound, chill, and other dismal terms.