Wednesday, 25 March 2015

BOOM! CRASH! Pitter-Patter Click-Clack.


Ah, it dooms us all. A first chapter, a first scene, a first sentence focused around weather is the bane of critique groups around the world. It's a classic no-no.

And yet so many books - recently published - begin with a scene describing the weather. 

What's the deal? 

Well, in my humble (entirely uninformed) opinion, I think it's more about being interesting than being unique. Weather, in conversation and in writing, is dull. Why is that? 

In my daily life, weather is fascinating. It determines what I wear, what I think, my mood, my diet, hell, it even determines what memories will pop up in my mind that day. Weather is scents I haven't smelled since childhood (a certain perfume paired with a warm wind), weather is dark or light, comfortable or dangerous. Weather is part of my daily experience. 

So why shouldn't I start my novel with the weather? 

Too often, weather is used as a metaphor for mood. That's fine and dandy, but how often do you really think 'the weather matches my mood today' without mentally slapping yourself for being cliche? (If you don't, you really should).

If your protagonist is walking through weather, don't describe it unless your protagonist notices - or if they should notice (like in a hailstorm) and don't. Weather is a tool, not a set piece. Use it to characterize, to antagonize, to obstruct, to distract. Not just... to be there. 

That's my opinion, anyway. I think weather is unjustly maligned. What about you? Any basic writing no-no that you think should be taken off the naughty list? 



L.G. Smith said...

Hello! Good to see you back blogging. :)

And, yes, I do notice novels when they open with the things we're all told not to do -- weather, landscape, waking up. Somehow certain writers get away with it.

I think most people are told these days to open with character and go from there, but I'm all for using weather or the seasons as metaphor for mood deeper within the story. I actually love that sort of stuff.

Misha Gericke said...

I agree with you. I don't describe anything unless the character notices. And even then, I keep it in the character's voice, so it doesn't stick out too much.

Cynthia said...

I grew up in SF, where the weather is often unpredictable and unusual. So weather is not an uncommon conversation topic here in the city. My work-in-progress takes place in SF, and I do work in mentions of the unusual weather at times.

Julie Dao said...

I think when it comes to writing, there are no taboos. People will say "Don't write a waking-up scene" and then there will come a waking-up scene that blows our minds! When written well, anything can fly under the radar :)

Slamdunk said...

I did not really think of it that way, Bethany. There is a tendency to overuse weather as a reflection of a character--yet it still can be a useful driver or a story.

Glad to see you back writing again, and I hope your weekend went well.