Saturday, November 6, 2010

Vicki Delany on Weather

A second question for Saturday. This one is from Michael.

Thanks for joining us, Vicki!

Elmore Leonard says, “Never open a book with the weather.” As a writer who was born in Manitoba (and has a great character named John Winters!), how do you think the weather can, should, and/or does affect the temperature of the good plots and characters?

I love weather. I love weather in my life – hot summers and cold winters are my ideal – and I love weather in books. John Winters was indeed named for the season. I believe that weather can be a great way of introducing atmosphere and mood. My first book, Scare the Light Away, was deliberately set in spring because it is a novel about renewal. The Molly Smith books are set in the mountains and weather is always variable and interesting. Hot sunny dry summers, and very very snowy winters. You quote Elmore Leonard, and I have heard that quote, but here is the opening paragraph of Winter of Secrets:

They don’t often get big snow storms in the Kootenay area of British Columbia. Lots of snow, that’s a given; sometimes the air is so full of snow that the daytime is as white as the night is black. But there isn’t much wind in these mountains, and the snow falls thick and fast and straight down, where it lies deep on the ground. The word “whiteout”, meaning when high winds whip falling snow around, reducing visibility to nothing, isn’t often heard in Trafalgar.
Tonight it would be.

I thought it would be okay to use the weather here, because of the sentence that closes that section. Tonight it would be. That introduces everything that is to follow, which is a busy night for the police ending with a tragedy when a car skids off the icy road and into the frozen river. Plus it’s Christmas Eve.

Weather allows the author to slip in bits of action – characters put up their umbrellas or shake off rainwater , stomp through snow drifts, or feel the heat on their faces. In a forthcoming book, I indicate that a couple are becoming romantically involved by having them share an umbrella.

Valley of the Lost is set in mid-summer:

Although it was now early hours of the morning, the temperature didn’t seem to have dropped much. She suspected that if she were so inclined, she could fry an egg underneath the Kevlar vest, in the gap between her breasts.

Negative Image is a book about betrayal and lack of faith. I thought it would work well in early spring, when people are tired and irritable after a long hard winter.

Although I love to use weather to add description and accent mood, I am (I hope) aware that it’s important to be careful not to overuse weather. One can get exceedingly tired of endless descriptions of the mild sunny day or the light rain falling.

To learn more about Vicki's books, please visit The opening chapters of several of the novels are on the web page.

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