Mar 19, 2014

For Every Book There is a Season

by H. Linn Murphy

"In the depths of the forest, of which the leafy surface lay bathed in the brilliant light of a cloudless day in June, while the trunks of the trees rose in gloomy grandeur in the shades beneath, voices were heard calling to each other."--The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper

"Dick looked about him right and left; and at last he perceived that the other end of the cord had been made fast to the trunk of a little hawthorn which grew, thick with blossom, under the lofty arcade of the oak. With his dagger, which alone remained to him of all his arms, young Shelton severed the rope, and instantly, with a dead thump, the corpse fell in a heap upon the ground." The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson

"...the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell; it was such a pleasant evening, so serene, so warm; the still glowing west promised so fairly another fine day on the morrow; the moon rose with such majesty in the grave east. I was noting these things and enjoying them as a child might, when it entered my mind as it had never done before:-- 
"How sad to be lying now in a sick bed, and to be in danger of dying! This world is pleasant--it would be dreary to be called from it, and to have to go who knows where?" Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

"Separated lovers cheat absence by a thousand fancies which have their own reality. They are prevented from seeing one another and they cannot write; nevertheless they find countless mysterious ways of corresponding, by sending each other the song of birds, the scent of flowers, the laughter of children, the light of the sun, the sighing of the wind, and the gleam of the stars--all the beauties of creation. And why should they not? All the works of God are designed to serve love, and love has the power to charge all nature with its messages. 
Oh, spring, you are a letter which I send her!" Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was--but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit." The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

Each of these snippets feature how the seasons affect scenes in the book. What if Dickens' Oliver had been set in a balmy, blossom-studded spring instead of freezing winter? How would the book Heidi have been different if she had arrived at her grandfather's house after climbing through hip-deep snow?

Sometimes if a scene is proving obstinate, a change of season might help. In my current WIP I found that my character didn't seem to have enough conflict happening. Don't get me wrong, the book is crammed with conflict, but that particular scene was a snoozer. I sat back and looked at her spring and decided she needed some bad weather. Voila. Pa-lenty of conflict. I now had great hunting weather interspersed with so much rain that it caused huge mud flows and floods. 

The season the scene is set in can act almost like another character. If you're going for a feeling of gloom and isolation, the skeletal trees and frigid air of winter make great visuals.
The kiss of the waves and light breezes of a summer at the beach can set a scene for calmness and well-being.

Or not.
Remember Jaws? Even a summer beach scene can be deceptive and full of hidden menace. Instead of a balmy day at the beach, the character might need to scrub the sweat out of her eyes or the wind might be peppering her with blowing sand.

The words one describes the season with can affect the story. Victor Hugo's spring seen through the peach-colored lens of separated lovers is much different than that of Dick Shelton's spring in Robert Louis Stevenson's entry above.

Your setting can make or break your scene. So next time you get stuck, try looking at what's happening through the lens of a different season.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! Being someone who is very much affected by the weather, I totally get this, and yet, hadn't considered it in my writing much. Thanks!


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