Friday, July 25, 2008

Whither, Hither Weather

La Mer a Quiberville,
Theodore Earl Butler,
o/c, 1905.

On the highway home yesterday from a family gathering to bid a child good-by -- we will not see her for a year -- we ran into bands of torrential, Louis XV rain so severe that we thought it prudent to pull over several times until they swept past, since the downflood obliterated not only the medians but also the winking red tails of all traffic.

Made me realize that water in such skydump quantities has its own gray-white cataract colour.

Made me wonder too -- in spite of The Perfect Storm -- if writers have moved away from the primal force of violent weather as a plot device into tepid territory, and so reflect the urbanization of contemporary prose.

~chortle, chortle, glee~

Fired up the PC and discovered to my astonishment I'd won a copy of Sandra Cormier's latest romantic suspense, Bad Ice. Today is the last day for this month's patio party, but the chefs have another delicious menu printed for August. A lot of hoot-n-holler fun, a great chance to meet-n-greet, and also to flog your latest literary recipe.

From Peter Bowler's The Superior Person's Book of Words:

querimony: n. Complaint. Querimonious is a synonym for quelerous.

Aha. From what I've read on various blogs lately, a most accurate and acute term!


BernardL said...

Congratulations on your 'Bad Ice' win, Bernita. You'll find some very good weather scenes in it. :)

Robyn said...

I wonder if writers/editors/agents think weather scenes have a "been there, done that" quality- but weather disasters still keep happening all over, don't they?

Carla said...

Congratulations on your win!

The writers I read haven't stopped using weather, but I don't read all that much contemporary fiction so you may well be right on the trend. It would make a book rather flat and lifeless, I think. Didn't Charlotte Bronte say something to that effect about Jane Austen? And even Jane Austen's drawing-room stories sometimes turn on violent weather events. Weather is part of building a world that feels real.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I think it was Hemmingway who said: ...and don't forget the damn weather!

But weather as an antagonist? Uh, no. Give this editor a thinking baddie, thanks. It does, however, make a great weapon. I happen to be using it that way in my series. I also use climate to signify certain things: cold=danger, heat=relative safety.

Bernita said...

Am waiting its arrival with delicious anticipation, Bernard!

I don't know, Robyn, but weather is the ultimate reality.

Thank you, Carla. I think the lack makes stories rather flat too.

The weather metaphor is still something most people can relate to, SS.I hope.

writtenwyrdd said...

The weather, along with a lot of description, seems to have been stripped from certain styles of writing. Chick lit or light-hearted and breezy styles that are carried on the conversation lack a lot of the slower paced, detail-oriented world building, IMO. Sometimes, there is too much weather (the Weather Warden series, which I didn't care for, is an example.)

Hope your daughter stays safe and comfortable on her 'trip'.

Gabriele C. said...

Weather and landscape play an important role in my books, and not only because the Roman sources keep complaining about German rain and British fog. :)

Dave F. said...

There's a new stretch oh highway near me. It's built way up high on the tops of the various hills. Western Pa is quite hilly. The problem is, is that in the morning it's covered in fog and the time I had to drive it, the cars still did 50 mph in thick fog, much like your rain. I did that once and the following mornings drove the old road with the dozen traffic lights.

Driving home was equally as dodgy {idiotic is another word that comes to mind}... There wasn't heavy traffic and the cars did 90mph passing me. Yanno, curves built for 60mph are tight at 90mph. Not that I'm a slow driver and not that I drive an underpowered car - far from it - but I refuse to be that fast. A motorcycle blew past me at 100mph sans helmet, sans shirt and sans brain.

Lately, with gasoline at $4.10 A gallon, I find if I drive at 55, I get 10% better gas mileage than 65 or 75mph plus.

laughingwolf said...

grats bernita... it only has to travel a bit up the road to get to you ;) lol

earlier in the week we got a month's worth of rain in a few hours....

raine said...

...if writers have moved away from the primal force of violent weather as a plot device

Big mistake if they have.
With the right ambiance, circumstances, and descriptive ability, it's an EXTREMELY powerful device.

Charles Gramlich said...

Congrats on winning the book. Cool.

Having grown up in the country, I love the effect that weather plays in a story. And a good rainstorm always brings a smile to my face. When I'm home and can enjoy it at least. I love the primal power of it. I tend to put a lot of weather in my work.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Written. She's not like to experience either, but "safe" we pray for.

Integral to the plot actually, Gabriele.

"A motorcycle blew past me at 100mph sans helmet, sans shirt and sans brain."
Dave, that's priceless!

Thank you, Lw. Saw that - you won't have to worry about fire hazard for awhile after that downpour.

Bernita said...

I certainly think so, Raine.

Thank you, Charles.It's part of the world.

Anonymous said...

We need to kick up some heavy weather again. Let's get out there in the world and get dirty.

Congrats on the Book Roast prize!!

Rick said...

Louis XV rain? I've never heard that expression - apres Louis XIV le deluge?

Has weather faded in writing because of urbanization, or because of the general tone of raised eyebrows toward descriptiveness? I ask because the weather passage that resonates most directly to me, Raymond Chandler's, is thoroughly urban:

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jason. You're a great chef!

My personal apres moi variation, SS.

Yes, that is an excellent example of the mistral winds that do blow over cities. But a lot has changed in the 50 years or so years since he wrote that; and weather sense,in many ways, seems to be reduced to the minute, to the pollution index, humidity, and the effects of the AC.

archer said...


Yeah, that 'pathetic fallacy' stuff is crap. As Stephen King says, what's so pathetic and what's the fallacy?

My two favorite storms: (1) The one at the end of David Copperfield that wrecks all of England and drowns everybody in the world, or seems to. (2) The one in Jurassic Park where the thunder rumbles just as the T. Rex looks at the car.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Archer.
I blame Ruskin.
"As Stephen King says, what's so pathetic and what's the fallacy?" - right on!

Suzanne Perazzini said...

Wow! That storm painting is exactly what's happening here right now. We have a massive storm moving over us and it's only going to get worse. However, no storm can stop me going to the movies. "Get Smart" this week.

Chumplet said...

We drove through buckets of rain to find the motel in which my father was staying. You know the story...

Yes, Bad Ice has LOTS of weather, and so does The Space Between. Weather can be a whole character in a book, with its moods and influences.

I can't wait for you to read Bad Ice.

Lana Gramlich said...

We had torrential rains here on the northshore the other day, ourselves, but not a drop at the library I work at. We must have been in the eye of a proverbial storm!

Bernita said...

Part of me always views a grand storm as exciting and invigorating, Suzanne!
To steal a line, the whole "whoa! and damn!" thing!

"Weather can be a whole character in a book, with its moods and influences."

Exactly, Sandra. I am really looking forward to reading it, like a kid for Christmas!

Thank you, Lana. That was the Hello Dolly! storm, was it not? Was thinking of you people down there and how you had it much, much worse.

laughingwolf said...

gonna be 'moist' here til monday, at least, humidity nearing 90% makes it hard to breathe....

Bernita said...

Hard on asthmatics, Lw.

Sam said...

Congrats with your win! It looks like a terrific read.
I drove through a storm like that a couple years ago - a whiteout, with no visibility. I crawled along, warning lights flashing, and tried to stay in my lane. Other cars had pulled over, but I was afraid of flooding the engine - there were 2 feet of water on the ground!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Sam. I know it will be.
At least we didn't have to deal with flooding!

Steve Malley said...

I've noticed a lot more fiction seems to be set in California these days. No idea why, but that (along with admonitions about never opening with weather) might explain the lack thereof.

When I read Minnesota crime novels (yeah, it's an actual subgenre), weather is integral. Of course, that's a place where locking your keys in the car can kill you...

Bernita said...

Interesting, Steve.
And here I thought the most popular settings were either New York or New Orleans.

ChrisEldin said...

You know, Bernita, I agree. But...Dean Koontz does rain and thunderstorms in all of the books I've read by him. And his metaphors are very different and all brilliant. My favorite was comparing the sound of rain hitting the sidewalk to an old man spitting out his teeth.
I read his books for these metaphors. I should compile a list. But I haven't seen this device in other books. I really enjoy weather scenes too....

Congratulations on winning Bad Ice!!! I've been waiting for this one to come out for a while.

Virginia Lady said...

Congrats on the win! It's always nice to get free books.

Rachel Caine has a whole series that center around weather. The Weather Warden series. Weather is very much a plot mover and used extensively throughout the series, but I agree, many books completely skip any mention of weather, good or bad. Which can is really a shame because weather can really help detail a setting and create an atmosphere.

Bernita said...

A fun roast, Chris!Thank you.
That's a rather startling simile.

Thank you, Virginia. It is, indeed, and this will be a great read.

Perhaps modern living has insulated many of us from direct and significant effects.That alone would make a series like that fascinating and unusual.

SzélsőFa said...

Congratulations to your success, Bernita!

I like when weather is woven into the story in a fine, subtle way. It does have a tremendeous potential to set the scene or the feeling of the characters, but it can be overdone.
Used well, describing the elements of weather is one of the best tools in writing.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Szelsofa.
Since weather is part of our environment, it seems strange when it's ignored.