Monday, January 7, 2013

How's the Weather in Your Middle Grade?



I’m writing this on a stormy day.  Rain is streaking the window, and the wind outside seems determined to rip the last of the leaves from the winter trees.  I live in California, and the locals grumble about this kind of weather, even though we only get rain on rare occasions.  I suppose they can’t help—they love their sunshine.

I’m a bit of an oddity.  I love the rain.  I love it when the sky gets gray and moody and those ominous dark clouds come rolling in.  Weather like this is a special treat.  I’ve had an affinity for rainy days since I was small, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I fully understood why.  Weather like this creates an atmosphere, gives me a wonderful shivery, tingly feeling of anticipation.  When the world is like this, it feels like something is going to happen—perhaps a mysterious neighbor will appear in the middle of night, speaking of tesseracts, or the overcast weather will draw a lightning rod salesman to town, warning of a coming storm that will bring so much more than bad weather.  (Yeah, not-so-subtle references to A Wrinkle in Time and Something Wicked This Way Comes.)  You get my point.  In books, nothing exciting ever happens on a bright, sunny day. As a lover of stories, therefore, I embrace tempestuous weather and all the exciting and mysterious possibilities that come with it.

For writers, weather is a super-effective tool that can be used to great effect. I once heard someone say that authors should strive to incorporate “weather reports” into their writing, for what better way to create an atmosphere or tone or foreshadow forthcoming events?  You can certainly create a sense of peace and contentment with something like a soft, gentle snowfall, and I think wild and destructive weather is one of the best ways to lend suspense and a sense of danger to any story.  One of my favorite middle-grade novels of recent years, The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell, begins with a storm that savages the crumbling old mansion in which the eleven-year-old protagonist lives.  Shutters and bricks are ripped from the house, the old oak tree on the front lawn splits in two, and you just know the protagonist is in for something menacing.  

Yes, you gotta love stormy days.  What’s the weather like in your middle grade?

photo credit: kygp via photopin cc

32 comments:

  1. I write adult fantasy, but my story starts on one of the sunniest day of the year. My protagonist is trying to mourn the death of her boyfriend (whom nobody liked) amid everyone else being in an awesome mood.

    I do have a lot of hot and humid days, as my fantasy-world is an island near the equator.

    Then there's always rice-planting season ;)

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    1. What a great contrast, Christine! Weather and setting are often particularly fun when you're writing fantasy :)

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  2. Thanks for the reminder to think (and write) more about the weather. The project I'm revising takes place in an outdoor setting, so you'd think I would've thought of that!

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    1. You're welcome, Andrea. Sounds like you've got prime weather opportunities in your manuscript!

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  3. There's not a lot of weather on "the secret eighth day" in my middle grade novel -- squeezed as it is between Wednesday and Thursday. I do show what it's like when rain is falling at midnight on Wednesday -- a mist of droplets suspended in the air for all of the secret day. But this is a good reminder to work this into future books in the series in a significant way.

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    1. I'd love to go about my day in a mist of suspended water droplets--especially if I could knock them around, catch them with my tongue, etc. What a great twist on a rainy day!

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  4. Weather really plays on if I feel like writing or not. Since I write scifi I get to create all types of freaky weather and having odd ball weather in my area helps a lot.

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    1. Gotta love that real-world inspiration :)

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  5. Weather played a huge role in my May B., as did setting (which sometimes can be very linked). I think it's one of many ways to set mood, anchor a scene, and make the setting come alive.

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  6. All my books are generally cold, dark, windy, and gloomy. Yes, I'm THAT writer! ;)

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    1. Hilary, I LOVE gloomy weather, so you won't hear me complaining.

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  7. I use weather to set the mood in my writing, but you have to be careful too, lest it become cliche.

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    1. Good point, everything in moderation.

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  8. Like Dawn, I love all types of storms. The weather plays a pretty big role in a couple of my stories. I think you can use it to create a mood; also, you can use it as an opposite to show contrast. A sunny day can be disarming and having something intense happen during "good weather," when it is least expected, can be fun, and surprising!! :-)

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    1. I love stories that do the unexpected, so yes, surprising the reader is good.

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  9. I had to laugh at this post, because i grew up in Iowa and weather is a constant topic of normal conversation (for farmers.) I like to incorporate weather in my stories because it's easy for me to add in how people are affected by it. I'm one of those people who hate hot weather, so many of my characters do too. And I've spent enough time outside in the snow that setting Wolf Storm during a blizzard was not too much of a challenge.

    I need to set a story in Hawaii so I can go there to resarch how people feel in Hawaiian weather...

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    1. Good point, Dee. We get to know characters, in part, through their reactions, so weather is an opportunity in that regard, too. (E.g. the character who splashes in the puddles vs. the character who scowls at the incoming storm clouds.)

      Send us a postcard from Hawaii :)

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  10. Love these comments. Yup, Dee and Caroline: you guys are the queens of ice and snow!

    I also like Paul's idea that a "sunny day can be disarming," and I myself like to go against convention. There have been several crisis moments in my own life when it has been sunny and everyone else has been cheerful, and it is certainly disorientating to feel so wretched when everyone else is being all laid back.

    Dawn, if you love the rain and stormy weather, I extend a warm welcome to Oregon!

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    1. Thanks for the invitation, Michael! I love the weather in Oregon. The only problem is I have to come back to dry, boring California when I'm done....

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  11. I love playing with the weather. Great post, Dee. I think weather is a major component of quality books (and I LOVE Something Wicked This Way Comes). :)

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    1. Thanks, Shannon. Another perk of being a writer--when else do you get to control the weather?

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  12. I live in LA, so please bring on the rain! Every night I pray for rain! Great post!

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  13. Yes! My old draft of my MG didn't have much in the way of interesting weather, but the revised outline kind of depends on it. It's definitely a great tool for symbolic theme and setting the mood. Great post, Dawn!

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    1. Thanks, Katrina. Happy revising!

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  15. This post so resonated with me! I too have been a big fan of rain, especially thunderstorms, ever since I was a kid. They fueled the imagination. The drama of a thunderstorm is amazing to watch. My latest WIP features a lot of rain--a lot of WATER. Terrific fun!

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  16. Great post! I write about ghosts, so dark and stormy nights (not to mention those where a full moon is visible) are fairly common in my work!

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  17. Great post. I'm glad I found your site. I also love rainy days because they keep you inside writing.

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  18. Great post. I also like rainy days because it keeps me inside writing.

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!