Everyone Talks About The Weather, But No One Does Anything About It

Elmore Leonard said something like, If you pick up a book and it starts with someone talking about the weather, put it down. That may not be one of the million or so Golden Rules applied to writing, but it’s a good thing to remember. Many of us (Guilty, Your Honor) work hard to set a scene and a tone in the first lines of a novel. Unfortunately, we’re seeing it and involved in it and not many readers care. Climate and environment may influence a character, but the reader’s interest will always demand character, not necessarily those things that contribute to his or her mannerisms. In fact, it’s the writer’s job to illustrate what makes a character  – and in such a way that the reader is attracted or repelled. Weather and environment, in general, are poor carriers of that need unless they contribute to the tension and suspense of the novel. In those cases where they do that, they can become key. We have Erik Larsen’s Isaac’s Storm to exemplify the point. The characters in the novel who frustrate the protagonist are practically subordinate to the hurricane itself – which remains offstage most of the time. Anyone can learn from his work how to weave an external element into a story so seamlessly that it becomes a living creature. Check it out.

So, as writers, it becomes pretty obvious that we can, indeed, do something about the weather. Just as we can warp time to suit our story, so can we wave briskly and bring on tide, storm, or spring zephyr. The thing is, we have to remember that not many readers are tuned in to our work to read rhapsodic descriptions that don’t serve the purpose of the story. It’s too bad we can’t actually do something about this global warming thing. Unless we can write stories that bring to life the hardships that change is going to inflict on the world. Maybe then someone will take the political and economic steps to eliminate or alleviate it. Wouldn’t that be nice?

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