Saturday, August 6, 2022

Through Rain or Sleet or Snow ...

Do you use weather in your books to create atmosphere or mood? Talk to us about meteorology.

Brenda starting off the week.

We Canadians love to talk about the weather. Meet a stranger at the bus stop and one is likely to comment, "It's a cold morning. Will it ever stop raining?" to which the other replies,"Sunny tomorrow if you can believe the forecast." (Comments vary depending on the day.) Yup, the weather is our number one preoccupation and the best conversation starter, no matter the situation.

It is only logical then that I focus on the weather in my stories. A stormy night can create atmosphere. A hot summer day can be used to make my characters uncomfortable. I believe the sensory aspects of weather ... heat, cold, wet ... draw readers into the scene and make them experience what the characters are feeling. Weather is our common denominator -- the element that unites us, no matter where we live.

In Ottawa, where I make my home and where my latest Hunter and Tate series is set, our climate runs the gamut, from 30 below C in the winter to a tropical 40 degree C (with humidex) in the summer. We experience all four seasons, and with climate change, are having increasingly more frequent weather events, including winter ice storms and summer tornadoes. We even had a derecho at the end of May, and if you have no idea what one is (none of us did),  a derecho is (ah hem): "a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms known as a mesoscale convective system". In other words, a mother of all storms causing quick but wide-spread destruction.

As an author, it's important to write enough description to evoke a scene without overdoing and boring the reader. I try to slip in a sentence or two about the weather and insert little 'reminders' about the setting as a chapter unfolds. To give a sense of this, I'll conclude with a three selections from my books, hoping these examples give that sensory ah ha that we writers aim to elicit. The first is from Killer Heat, an Anna Sweet mystery novella (summer), the second from In Winter's Grip, a standalone mystery (winter), and the last from Closing Time, final book in the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural series (autumn).

Ottawa was into its second week of steamy July heat and people were grumpy. Passers-by who used to say hello now couldn't be bothered to smile. It was so hot by mid-morning that people were frying eggs on the sidewalk. Well ... they could have fried eggs on the sidewalk if they'd felt up to it.

"Somebody is going to kill somebody," said my PI partner Jade Price, wiping sweat off her forehead. She'd tied her black dreadlocks into a soggy ponytail on the top of her head. The air conditioner in our second-floor office in the Hintonburg neighbourhood was broken. Two fans were pushing hot air around like a pea soup bath.

--Killer Heat 

The rest of the household was asleep when I stepped outside into a bitterly cold day. Sometime during the night, a north wind had blown away the cloud cover, and a high pressure system had pushed its way in. Already the sky was turning from black to midnight blue and frosted orange as the sun slipped over the tree line. Every so often weak, silvery sunshine glistened through the trees, casting slender lines of brightness in the snow.

--In Winter's Grip. 

The air was cool and a white mist hung over the water so that sounds were muffled and the feeling was like being inside a globe of cotton batting. Even as Stonechild let the canoe drift, the sun began burning off the fog and warmed the dampness on her face. The pink and rose colours reflecting off the water faded.

-- Closing Time 

I'll conclude by adding the link to an excerpt from Blind Date: A Hunter and Tate Mystery, published in the Ottawa Citizen this past Tuesday. Blind Date is featured as one of the summer reads!


Facebook & Instagram: BrendaChapmanAuthor

Twitter: brendaAchapman


James W. Ziskin said...

Great post, Brenda. I don’t know whether to feel hot or cold! Very atmospheric. Love it!


Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Jim!

Susan C Shea said...

Sorry, Brenda, reading this late, but what wonderful ways to integrate weather into storylines. Your examples are really A+ !

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Susan - your comments mean a lot.