Sunday, July 31, 2011


The novel I'm currently writing takes place in December.  The location isn't the coldest place in winter, but daily highs average 59 F and lows average 38 F.

In the past two weeks where I live, afternoon temperatures have been between 85 and 103, and nights between 67 and 83. Sitting here in my shorts and sleeveless shirts, it's not easy to remember to put jackets and gloves on my characters. It's hard to recall what a winter breeze feels like on naked skin. Or to picture little white puffs of breath while people talk.

I had a similar situation while writing HANG MY HEAD AND CRY. That story takes place in July in Virginia, during a heat wave and drought. I wrote much of that novel during the winter.

Still, I believe in getting the weather and climate right for whatever setting I'm using.  I think I mentioned once in this blog a book I'd read in which a family from Florida goes to Virginia for the Christmas holidays. The author had put far too much snow on the ground for the location. The characters were forever doing things like sitting under a tree for a half hour with no sign of discomfort, or walking on top of the snow without sinking in or slipping. One character said she'd forgotten her gloves, then went on to help build a snowman. The author was a Floridian. I suspect that, since she had no clue snow was wet and freezing cold, her only experiences with it were through visual media.

These days, it's easy to Google monthly average temperatures and precipitation for just about anywhere on earth. Writers researching historical novels can use weather descriptions in dairies and local newspaper archives. I did this with FEAR ITSELF. My 1933 characters had to deal with messier weather, but I had the satisfaction of knowing it was authentic and much more interesting than relentless nice days (which is rare for March in Southeastern Pennsylvania).

Weather adds depth and mood to a setting. Yet writers seldom use it except in the extreme, like the blizzard that stranded the train in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

As I finish this blog, the sky outside is turning an ominous dark gray. I can hear thunder from the southwest.

Think I'll go enjoy the impending show.

Stay cool,

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