Describing the Weather

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(photo credit: Dave Bolenbaugh)


“In his ten deadly sins of crime writing Elmore Leonard urges the writer never to open a book with the weather. What Leonard means by this, presumably, is not to go into great detail about the weather at the outset; however weaving the weather into the fabric of your narrative adds texture.

Weather is connected to the senses. In a city . . .  the weather affects everything: what your character is wearing, eating, doing and drinking, the type of pubs, the cafes, the water restrictions. . . .

When describing weather or other aspects of setting and atmosphere be specific and concrete. Ideally the writer requires that readers fill in the gaps and pick up on the hints. Reading good fiction is not passive like watching bad TV, it requires engagement, concentration to enter the fictional world. Setting and atmosphere help to create and reinforce this relationship between writer and reader.”

[Today’s Assignment:] “Think of a city (or suburb) that your protagonist knows intimately. Don’t write this city down. Jot down twenty words, phrases, sentences that describe this place. Think of unusual details. Use the senses: sounds, smells, touch, sight, taste. Now show your writing partner. Don’t tell them the name of the city (suburb) but see if they can figure out where it is. Decide which phrases, details have evoked your setting most effectively and throw the rest away.”

(from: The Handbook of Creative Writing, Steven Earnshaw, 129).   Available here.

More about Steven Earnshaw here.

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(Charles M. Schulz)