Monday, October 29, 2012

Rock You Like A Hurricane Sandy

If you're anywhere near the mid-Atlantic or northeast US, you're likely huddled down arse over elbow right now just like I am. As Dread Pirate Donna expressed on Facebook, this is clearly not that nice, sweet Sandy from the beginning of Grease. Nope. This is the bad-ass, leather wearing chick from the end. And she's squashing us under that cherry red stiletto of hers.

They canceled school by mid-afternoon on Sunday and I have no intention of driving through flooded streets to reach the office, so I might be a little late checking in today. That is if I can check in at all since a lack of power would be a problem. But this is the perfect chance to discuss the weather, don't you think? In books I mean.

Do you notice weather? Ever read a story all the way through and realized every day was sunny and perfect and how could that possibly be? Especially in London?! My debut novel only covers about two weeks and the weather is perfect every day. Since the time period is late May, there's a slight possibility that could happen. But it's unlikely. Damn it.

In book 2 of the series, a hurricane plays a crucial role. So in a way, this weekend is good research. Though I'd rather experience this through Google, I suppose first hand isn't so bad either. Not that this is my first hurricane but this brings the experience front of mind for sure.

When it comes to books or movies, next to a good shower scene a tension-laced scene in the rain is always nice. One of my favorite scenes in the most recent movie version of Pride and Prejudice is Darcy's botched proposal in the rain. They're both wet and panting and exchanging insults, and then they lean in ever so slightly… Steam practically rises from my TV screen every time I watch it. (And I know that's not how the scene is in the book but I don't care. It's awesome and I want to have Matthew Macfadyen's babies. Uhm…did I say that out loud?)

Anywhozit. Let's talk about the weather. Which is usually a mundane subject but can really intensify a scene when used well. How many Romances have the intrepid couple trapped in a snowstorm? Almost always alone and cut off, be it Historical or Contemporary. (Thank goodness cell phones don’t have a signal everywhere.)

Do you alter the weather in your work? Mix in some precipitation? Use it for setting but never let it affect your plot? Or do you ignore it all together. And as a reader, does it bother you if the weather is never mentioned? Any memorable scenes, book or movie, in which the weather played a role?


Janga said...

Stay safe, Ter and any of the rest of you pirates in the storm's path. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

My top favorite weather scene in romance fiction is Jessica and Dain's kiss in the rain in Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels. That scene has everyting--passion, humor, and romance--and it marks the beginning of one of the best pairings ever. Plus we get Dain's thoughts about his feelings for Jessica in Italian. Sigh!

Larissa Ione has a great post with solid advice about using weather in romance writing:

MsHellion said...

I don't think about the weather a lot--clearly because it's been nothing but sunny in Montana since I started writing. Maybe I'll send a summer storm on a cattle drive. When it can really be a pain in the ass. *LOL*

But London--yeah, it's like the jungle isn't it, where it rains every day no matter what? And it doesn't always reflect that in the story. Sometimes though I think if the character is part of that particular weather pattern, it's just not as noticeable. So if you live in London, it's raining again isn't that big a deal. So you don't worry about your hemlines or whathaveyou--it just is. However, if you're NEW to that weather or it is unexpected (like a hurricane), then it would take more precedence.

TerriOsburn said...

*hops in with arms raised* I'm here! No loss of power but lots and lots of water outside. No flooding for me, thank goodness. But the office is closed so it's another lazy day (filled with revisions.)

I know admitting this will mean losing my Romance reader card, but I've never read that book, Janga. It's here. Somewhere. And I've heard about it forever. But I'm almost afraid to read it because it's such a big deal, ya know?

That does sounds like an amazing scene. And in Italian? *swoons* Okay. I'll hunt around today to find the book. And I'll check out the link, thanks.

TerriOsburn said...

A storm could cause a stampede, no? Talk about upping the stakes. Go for it, Hellie. And I don't know that the character has to notice the weather so much as the author dropping hints like them walking through a puddle or clouds hovered overhead.

Part of this is probably the fact my editor left a bunch of notes asking me to describe the setting more. Which I never remember to do. And weather is part of that.

BTW - If anyone is seeing national coverage of this storm and they show areas flooded in Va Beach, know that I'm at the top of a hill and we're good up here. :)

Marnee Bailey said...

I'm here too!! For now, anyway.... :)

I loved Lord of Scoundrels. You shouldn't run away from it, so good.

I haven't really done a lot with weather. I should, though. Since mine's set in London. Maybe something to think about here..... LOL!!

As to the storm, we're tucked in and for now we still have power. The eye of this monster is supposed to pass over us, though, or very close to us. So, we'll see how it goes. Luckily, we haven't had any flooding issues in the past. I don't expect any problems there. But I am concerned about wind damage and the potential to be out of power for a while. I'll let you folks know, k?

Hang in there all!

TerriOsburn said...

You're in a much more threatened area than I am, Marn. I hope she weakens once she hits shore. I've already heard pieces of the Atlantic City boardwalk had broken off. And that was hours before Sandy would actually get there.

And, uh, yeah. Might want to write some clouds and rain into a London setting. :)

irisheyes said...

My thoughts are with all of you in Sandy's path! I hope you all stay safe, dry and warm! If it's any consolation, Marn, my DH was reading last night that although this storm is supposed to be the largest on record (I guess covering the most area at once?), it's not supposed to be as severe. He said the winds won't reach deadly speeds. Here's hoping he's right!

As for weather in my romances. I love it. I also think it is a great plot device. I mean when it strikes, it strikes and nothing can be done about it but to get through it. Snowstorms strand people. Thunderstorms/rain storms wash out roads and power goes out. Hurricanes and tornadoes make people evacuate. All great stuff.

There are 2 books that stick out in my mind when I think of weather. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn with one of my favorite scenes. Anthony finds Kate in the library under a desk scared to death due to her fear of thunderstorms. Anthony comforts Kate and their relationship shifts.

The second is Virgin River by Robyn Carr. Jack finds Mel outside his bar holding onto a tree in a thunderstorm having a breakdown on the 1 year anniversary of the sudden death of her husband in a convenience store robbery. He, of course, goes to her and holds on until she can calm down. Then he takes her back to his place and takes care of her - dries her off, puts her in his sweats, gives her a little brandy. It's another favorite scene of mine. And their relationship changes that night.

TerriOsburn said...

Perfect examples, Irish. It's so important to find an external circumstance that forces the characters to face something internally. The symbolism can be cool as well. She's dealing with an emotional storm during a real storm. Love that.

We didn't get a direct wind hit, but 80-90mph winds hitting Jersey and NYC will cause issues. We might have hit around 60mph here and there are will be places with siding or awnings torn off.

irisheyes said...

Gee... the weather report he read was wrong. That almost never happens! :)

TerriOsburn said...

He could be right about this not being deadly, but they'll have massive power outages and lots of flooding. Sandy is slightly weaker than Irene, but that's a difference of maybe 20-30mph. When you're standing in it, still really powerful.

irisheyes said...

Stay safe, Marn!

I thought of something else when you talked about London weather. I've been catching phrases like... the day was bright and sunny, almost never an occurance in London, or... it was an unusually dry, sunny day. Stuff like that in a lot of the regencies I've read. The authors know it should be nothing but cloudy and rain but for the sake of their garden party or picnic they've made it opposite for this one day! LOL If you pay attention, I bet every time they mention the weather being nice in London they throw a clarification in there.

quantum said...

I sincerely hope that you guys are all secure and safe from that storm.

I really must defend London's climate though! When I lived there, many moons ago, I spent long happy hours strolling through the parks, admiring all the lovely bikini clad (sometimes unclad!) ladies sunbathing on the grass or by the serpentine. I also played a lot of cricket, getting badly sunburnt under cloudless skies.

This past summer has been extremely wet but this isn't typical. The weather is just unpredictable. Forecasters are however quite reliable on a 24 hr time-scale. You just need a folding umbrella in your briefcase as a little insurance. LOL

A most attractive feature of English weather is the complex and fascinating skies. These are seen at their best when experiencing 'sunshine and showers'. Patches of blue sky mixed with white clouds of different types. The wispy cirrus can mix with the billowing cumulus clouds which can appear as magical beasts. After a light shower some glorious rainbows can also delight the eye.

We don't get the monster storms experienced in the US, though sometimes the tails of those storms can extend across the Atlantic, giving gale force winds. I have also seen a small whirlwind travelling across fields, ripping up trees and hedges. But it is very rare.

A fictional weather scene that I remember well was in Linda Gillard's 'Star Gazing'. A blind woman becomes disorientated outside her house on the Isle of Skye, with a blizzard blowing, and has to use her memory and intelligence to find shelter in a tree house, where she knows her sweetheart will eventually look for her.

P. Kirby said...

Um...well, the interesting thing about the (!@#@#$!!) fan fiction experiment is that it's teaching me a lot about myself as a writer. Since I'm playing someone else's sandbox, I can really look at what makes up my voice, strengths, etc.

Dialogue, remains, my thing.

But...when writing in a setting I know well, i.e., New Mexico/desert southwest, my voice really has punch. And a big part of that is in the description. I find I take the same approach as many geographically fixated writers--Evanovich, Stephen King, etc.--and describe the setting with a kind of snarky affection. And...this includes the weather. I.e., it never f*cking rains here. It's dry. And when we get any weather, an inch of snow, life screeches to a halt. I don't spend pages on description, but I have a great time describing the rusticated weirdness that is New Mexico.

So, in my milieu, I'm all about the weather (sometimes it's a character all itself).

OTOH, my writing gets kind of flat in more fantastical settings, which is weird, because I see myself as a fantasy writer. I think its because I don't have an emotional connection to the setting.

Anyhoo, you stay safe, ya hear?

With love from New Mexico where the sky is currently almost unnaturally blue.

MsHellion said...

You don't have to worry, Q, rain would never keep me away from England! *LOL* Or snow...or Republicans...or...I can't think of anything that would keep me from England, other than a lack of discretionary funds for travel. :)

Incidentally Sin is posting pictures of herself IN ENGLAND RIGHT NOW, so you might try to run into her. She was in Stonehenge today.

TerriOsburn said...

I saw that! Though I did think it was funny I could actually see Stonehenge anywhere. LOL!

Did not mean to imply it's never sunny in London, Q. Thank you for clearing that up! I so want to go there. *sigh*

TerriOsburn said...

Pat, dialogue is my thing as well. Description of any kind? Not so much. I almost need to make a specific pass of the WIP to look at every scene and ask, "What does this place look like? What's the weather doing? What does it smell like?" And so on. Maybe I'll remember that with the next one.

But thank goodness for editors who have our backs on this stuff.

Janga said...

You and your family stay safe, Marn. I hope no one is without power for too long. We were without power for several days with Andrew and we were hundreds of miles from the real storm. Some of my students didn't have power for two weeks. The scope of Sandy is incredible. We have wind warnings out all the way down here, but at 22 mph, they are insignificant in comparison to what those of you in the storm path will face.

Irish's comment about the Quinn book reminded me of Mary Balogh's The Notious Rake in which a passionate encounter in a thunderstorm is the key event in the book. Thinking of Balogh reminded me of how many of her books use winter storms as a major plot point--Snow Angel,Unforgiven, Simply Unforgettable. Jezebel's Blues by Barbara Samuel writing as Ruth Wind uses a flood to bring the hero and heroine together. Barbara Freethy also uses a flood as a significant factor in Ryan's Return, and Janice Kay Johnson, one of my favorite category authors, uses a blizzard in Snowbound and a flash flood in All That Remains as the H/H meet scene.

Once I start thinking about weather scenes, I am recalling more and more.

P. Kirby said...

Thank god for editors, indeed. My weakness being plot.

"Pat, dialogue is my thing as well. Description of any kind? Not so much."

Okay, I'm probably stating the screaming obvious, but...I use description to give my dialogue rhythm and to ground my characters in the setting. So, yep, I often so some scene setting description, prior to the yapping. But...I fold a lot in a lot during the conversation. I often use it as a means of giving one character a moment of introspection. (Character looks at her surroundings while figuring out what to say next.)

Sometimes it's just some funny little thing going on in the background. Sometimes it mirrors thematically, the conversation. Sometimes, it's just a trite weather thing: character, already frustrated, wrestles her hair out of her eyes where it's been pushed by the wind.

The trick is to use description in a way that enhances the dialogue, and allows for necessary pauses/rhythm without disrupting the flow of the conversation. (I've read some cases where the writer goes overboard and by the time the character speaks again, I've forgotten what they were talking about.)

Anyway, you probably already do, don't throw anything too hard (brick) at me. *Runs away.*

TerriOsburn said...

Pat, I could kiss you. This is EXACTLY what I needed today. Trying to take out all the deep breaths and hands through hair. Reading you explain it this way gets my head in the right place. Thanks!

Maureen said...

Well, many of my books take place at sea and I love throwing a good storm or two or three at the ships. Then when on land, there is mud and fog and wind...all good things to advance a plot or establish something about character.

Especially mud. Which isn't weather direct, but is a result of weather. People can notice it on their boots, or not. Slip in it, track it into the bar... Mud is great.

Same with fog.

I never fiddle with snow, for the most part, because I don't know snow.

No horror movie or novel is complete without a good storm, lightning and thunder included. Adds mystery to mysteries. And yeah, what would historicals do without snowstorms and breakdowns in the mud.

Okay, I'm a bit fixated on using mud.

Tides are good, too.

P. Kirby said...

"Especially mud. Which isn't weather direct, but is a result of weather. People can notice it on their boots, or not. Slip in it, track it into the bar... Mud is great."

That's just the thing. Weather doesn't have to be happening to figure into the description. Rain makes mud. And lots of weeds. And mold. And rot. And rust. (As does salty sea air.)

Conversely, no-rain means dust and sand--everywhere. The desert sun bakes everything: paint chips; wood cracks; anything plastic or rubber turns to dust, colors fade. (stuff doesn't rust and it petrifies before it rots.)

A particularly warm winter might mean a plague of insects that torment your characters in the spring. So, uh, climate/weather is always working on the story.

Maureen said...

Actually, I imagine, with Anchor Island, there would be sand as a good character device. Who minds it everywhere, who doesn't care...etc.

As with Pat's New Mexico, you'd have a constant state of humidity, instead of dryness. So there would be smells to contend with...

Maureen said...

Yeah, what Pat said!

TerriOsburn said...

Now Pat is just showing off. LOL!

P. Kirby said...

I'm at work and bored out of my itty-bitty mind. And tormenting ya'll.