Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing About Weather

When Art and Weather Coincide
The other day I was writing on my WIP/work in progress, and even though it was summer in the novel, I had a scene where it was raining. (Yes, since my novel is set in Oregon, that's perfectly normal for summer weather.) And coincidentally as I was writing, it was raining outside. Perfect mood setter! I could directly check out sounds, feelings, smells, and other perceptions.

…And When They Collide
On the other hand, one summer I remember it being meltingly hot in my office, and I had to write a scene where my character was scurrying along a road feeling really cold. I've also experienced when it's been winter and I've had to write a scene where summer sweat is dripping off my main character. Those things really stretched my imagination! It's almost like your body has to be in a different place than your mind. Aren't writers wonderfully versatile?

If you're writing an opposite (or regular) scene, here are some suggestions for doing so:

Ideas/Aids for Writing Weather
1. Dredge your memories for when you really were in similar weather as your scene: pouring rain, freezing cold, blistering heat. How did you feel? What did it smell like? Taste like, look like? Sound like?
2. Do a websearch for "free nature sounds" and connect with your scene's weather sounds. It will often put you in a mood or frame of mind that is conducive to your scene--and may give you exact sounds to describe. Check out the site called Calmsound, for instance, HERE. There are free snippets plus entire nature CDs to purchase (such as Nature Sounds) that include a country garden, the seaside, a desert at night, etc.  
3. Connect with mood-related music to give you ideas and set your atmosphere. For instance, are you writing a storm scene? Try dramatic music with cymbals and drums, like classical music or a movie soundtrack. Are you writing a beautiful sunset? Try slow, melodic flute music or violin music.
4. Read other novels or writings to see how other authors have handled a similar weather setting. The idea isn't to copy them, of course, but to see how they've described the subject. Can you see/feel/sense the scene in a very real way? Study their methods and apply.

Have you ever tried to write a scene where the weather was OPPOSITE?
Have you ever written a scene where it was stormy weather--just like in real life?
Do you ever listen to nature sounds (or music) to heighten the writing of a setting or scene?

Photo taken by myself at Yaquina Bay, Oregon coast, 2009.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Writing Unreasonableness

A few weeks ago when my husband and I moved into our new house, the furnace wasn't working so we built fires in the wood stove. I found myself singing the song written by Shel Silverstein, called "Put Another Log on the Fire."

So naturally I thought about this man, this clueless character who's singing the song. And I pondered what other characters might think of him, and how they'd react. Check out these lyrics:

by Shel Silverstein
sung by Waylon Jennings & Tompall Glaser

Put another log on the fire
Cook me up some bacon and some beans
Go out to the car and change the tire
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.

Come on baby, you can fill my pipe and then go fetch my slippers
And boil me up another pot of tea
Then put another log on the fire, babe
And come and tell me why you're leaving me.

Now don't I let you wash the car on Sunday
Don't I warn you when you're gettin' fat
Ain't I a gonna take you fishin' with me someday
Well, a man can't love a woman more than that.

Ain't I always nice to your kid sister
Don't I take her driving every night
So sit here at my feet 'cause I like you when you're sweet
And you know it ain't feminine to fight.

So put another log on the fire…

The link to this song if you want to hear it--is HERE.
Showing and Not Telling
If such a character were found in a novel, this song (probably as dialogue) would be a perfect example of showing and not telling about his personality. His chauvinistic, unreasonable, clueless words say it all. There's no need for another character or the narration (i.e., the author) to label him that way. The lines end up conveying exactly the opposite of what is being said, even though the man in question seems to believe it wholeheartedly.

Character Viewpoints
What's nice about this example is that we can get a glimpse of this man's inner reasoning and viewpoints. It gives reasons--even if seen as obnoxious to others--why he thinks the way he does. For instance, fishing is a wonderful thing in his eyes, and he's offering to take his woman with him on a fishing trip (or at least he claims that intent). What sacrifice and devotion! And his idea of femininity is a docile woman, one who works hard to make his life comfortable, one who doesn't complain. He sees a man as being the "king of his castle."

Obviously, this man and his woman have opposing personalities, goals, and intentions. He's expecting her to continue to wait upon him hand and foot, and she's finally fed up with it. This is an excellent opportunity for conflict at the point of change. They have opposing viewpoints and goals. The clash makes for good writing and reading material.

Have you heard this song before, or read Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends?
Do you think this is a caricature or are some people really this earnestly chauvinistic?
Have you written an unreasonable character, and were you able to Show rather than Tell that quality?