Friday, March 09, 2007

A Safe Subject

The March Marigold,
Sir Edward Burne-Jones, c 1870.

Gorgeous, glowing colour in that thin, sleeveless gown, isn't there?

Here, the ground is leperous with dirty snow, it's colder than a witch's tit, and you still need 40 lbs of outdoor gear or freeze your wee behind.

If winter doesn't break soon I'll organize a posse to get that groundhog.

Two things about weather mildly annoy me in some stories.

While we are treated to hot weather descriptions of sweat rolling suggestively down manly chests or glistening between swelling breasts - which he or she wish to lick off in a orgy of salt-loss sensuality - dialogue often omits the weather.

We may read the obligatory descriptions of heat shimmers or hot pavement/ drifting snow and goosebumps/clammy clothes and plastered hair - but the characters never seem to discuss it.

People always discuss the weather. It's automatic. It's introductory. A conversational opener. A passing acknowledgement.

Complete strangers toodling down the street who will never run across each other again are impelled by shared humanity to offer a comment on the weather."Sure is hot/cold/wet/nice today."

The other exasperating thing is the assumption that the whole world experiences the same weather patterns and seasonal congruity as the writer's own. Do a little freaking research, will you?


Erik Ivan James said...

Cabin-fever certainly has managed a tight grip on me! There is hope, though, maybe 30's today.

You raise a very interesting point for discussion here, Bernita. The question I have is, that since weather conversation in everyday life is so normal, I wonder how much about it our readers are interested in? It seems to me that I read somewhere here on the blogs several months ago that a writer should keep references to weather to an absolute minimum---readers find it boring. I can't remember where I read that, though.

I would think, however, that to the extent weather was directly influencing action or character behavior, it should be a necessity in the scene.

As you said, maybe I had better do some friggin research. I hate it when I have to do that.

Bernita said...

Very true, Erik.
But I'm not advocating some long, tedious discussion, just the occassional comment, such as "Kerist, it's cold/hot/wet/nice!" to insert a little natural realism at the beginning of a conversation.

writtenwyrdd said...

Cranky much this morning, lol? Don't blame you. I'm ready for spring, myself.

As far as weather descriptions via dialog...Hmmm... Can't think of an actual conversation about weather in a book I've read recently, and I've read six or so in the last couple of weeks.

This is a very good point you make.

I think I have to make my characters huddle in a doorway and bitch about it pissing down rain, or hacking because they forgot and sucked in a lungful of air at ten below zero!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Written. Blame that painting. And winter gets so bleeping boring in this latitude after a while.
Sometimes I get the impression that a book's characters all live in a totally air-conditioned and climate-controlled environment.

Ric said...

I'm with Erik - and I'm a couple hundred miles south of him promised 45 today - but will it be enough to make the snow go away and the robins magically appear?

I think the weather falls into that 'common' stuff - you don't write it unless it promotes the plot. If it's important that it be hot (as in your steamy example), then yes. If not, it comes across as filler.

tis a fine line. I agree most folks talk about the weather - but I'm with Erik on just how important that is.

After the long winter, his mind and other organs compelled by the biological imperatives of spring, emboldened by the lengthening sunshine, sought the company of the fair maiden of the north.

Bernita said...

Odd. Guys are more apt to comment on the weather than women.
Is that a paraphrase of " a young man's fancy," Ric?

Ric said...

Absolutely! Metaphors abound! Tightly wound from months indoors, ready to spring into action!

Guys only talk about the weather because we're looking at your breasts thinking of something to say.

Bernita said...

I never realized how effective the removal of winter gear was to males.
Look out, Ladies, Ric's randy.

Bailey Stewart said...

I think you all are right (should I mention that it will be in the 70s here today) *ducking* Put it in only if it's necessary for the plot, but at the same time, it wouldn't hurt for the characters to at least mention it. How's that for wishy-washy? Love the gown.

Sela Carsen said...

LOL. I wrote a whole story, then realized at the end I had no idea if it was summer or winter! Oops! I was familiar with the setting in February, so that's when I set it -- in my next draft.

Bernita said...

~makes threatening gestures at Bailey~

Hee, Sela!But you caught it.
I want to set the present WIP in April, and find I'm dithering over details. It's been so long I forget the feel.

December Quinn said...

I'm so tired of cold. It didn't get super-cold here (we had a week here and there)...but it dropped to like 40 in mid September and just stayed there. It's still there. I just want to not wear a coat!

It's the wind that's the worst thing. It's been a very windy winter.

raine said...

We're just starting to warm a bit here, so it should be moving north. I've even seen a couple of robins--and pavement, for the first time in about 3 weeks!

Thanks for the suggestion, Bernita. Just realized I often DESCRIBE the weather, but rarely have my characters comment on it. Quite right.

Bernita said...

Right now, December, 40 degrees strikes me as positively sultry, but I know what you mean - the freedom to go in and out without preparation.

Robins. I crave robins, Raine.
And red-winged blackbirds.

Just the occasional "Hot enough for ya" from some minor character, like a gas jockey, or a detective saying "Wish this damned weather would break" might add a little verisimilitude now and then.

Marie said...

That's a lovely pic.

Scott from Oregon said...

Yes, the weather per se does not bother us, but the excessive gear women wear because of it does...

Bring on the Spring...

It seems the only stories that utelize much weather are the "trapped in a cabin with a killer" types.

I agree with you Bernita. Weather affects everyday (unless you be from So. Cal. and can forget the weather) and should play a bigger role in story telling.

Bernita said...

Quite glamorous, Marie.
I hope she trips on it.

Thank you, Scott!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

LOL...tell me how you really feel, girlfriend!

"'s colder than a witch's tit..."...

ROFLOL, I've never been able to break my husband of saying that. Last night he said, "It's a little nippley **

Candice Gilmer said...

I beleive I"ve heard what Erik had, about weather being boring in the story -- it would have to somehow be intregal to the story, say a tornado on the horizon, that would make me bring it in..

Simply because I tend to run on so anyway, and that woudl just be one more thing I'd be discussing. :)

Robyn said...

I was so happy to wear short sleeves and my capris this week! Even sandals!

You don't get conflicting opinions on weather, either. I live in 11,987 percent humidity in the summer. A friend of mine, from Arizona, loved it. I questioned her- I mean, dry heat is supposed to better, right? She said NO. Walking out her front door was like walking into hell.

And does it ever bother you that tv characters who live in Miami or Las Vegas are always wearing black leather?

Bernita said...

I suspect he knows how to get around you, Bonnie.
Bet he grinned when he said it.

Weather always affects a story, Candice, but all I'm talking about IS the minimum, in terms of conversation.

Bernita said...

"I was so happy to wear short sleeves and my capris this week!"
~moans and groans~

Sam said...

We're right in the heart of global warming - a full month and a half ahead of schedule. I've never had such a mild winter, nor seen the forsythai and daffodils bloom so soon. My daughter's comment was "It's scary."
I tend to agree.
Sure is warm and balmy here, and the weather report says we're going to have a fabulous weekend!

Sam - ducking Bernita's frozen snowball.

Bernita said...

Around here, the words "global warming" brings fits of raucous laughter. In fact, it's one of those phrases people greet each other with, while knocking snow shovels together.

I'll do more than that, Sam, I'll push you into a drift and shove snow down your neck!

Anonymous said...

One of my first DUH moments regarding weather not being the same was when I read White Oleander and the narrator was commenting on her static-y, flyaway hair in the summer. And I'm thinking, summer, we have frizz and humidity and no sign of flyaway hair anywhere. WINTER gives us that in the dry, indoor air!

Then I realized the book was set in CA, in the coastal desert...oh yeah, duh!

Zany Mom said...

I usually weave a line or two about the weather in each chapter (be it raining, cloudless sky, impending thunderstorm, etc). For me, it's about setting the scene. Not in an overdone way, but an observation by the character.

My first novel had lots of sticky summer weather, and yes, it affected the characters and the plot.

Bernita said...

Probably the worst example, Anon, would be having blizzards in December - in Australia.

Exactly, Zany,weather is not a separate thing.We're conscious of it all the time.

Jennifer McK said...

OMG! I do this. I mention in a current wip that it's raining. I don't have any of the characters mention it. *rolls eyes*. Thanks for the heads up.
Of course, where I live, we HATE it when people complain about the rain. Usually, when we talk about the weather it's often "What do they think happens here on the coast? If they want sunny weather they need to move to Palm Springs."
But maybe we're just a snarky bunch. LOL.
Come to think of it, my heroine is kind of snarky. I can use it.

spyscribbler said...

Oh! We reached 64 today! Not sure how long it's going to last, and it didn't melt the piles of snow, but ... it was glorious while it lasted!

Knowing this latitude, we'll probably get a blizzard tomorrow.

Bernita said...

It's just a suggestion, Jennifer.

Right now, Natasha, 64 degrees sounds hot.