Five Minute Writing Tip
This year I'm sincerely trying to ease into autumn rather than do my usual kicking and screaming. It's not that I don't enjoy the harvest season, it's more that I love the summer and don't want it to ever end. Our summers are beautiful in the Pacific Northwest and autumn seems but a small step into a long, wet, messy winter. If you're wondering where I going with this, I'm is leading up to my October writing tip.
American novelist Elmore Leonard's first rule in novel writing is: "Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people."
Most novelists must agree, because very few books start with weather or a change in seasons. But changes in weather can establish a profound mood when telling a story; a foreshadowing of what's to come. Describing a brewing storm moving in can create a subtle stirring of discomfort in a character, or a profound fear about experiencing something untoward. The changing of seasons can also symbolize life changes, be they ominous or hopeful. The dawning of a new day might bring about a renewed energy, even courage to move forward. A full moon can enhance a romance or intensify a fearful situation.
So, even though it's not a good idea to open a story with weather, using it as a "showing" tool can enrich you story. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, used it as a great cliffhanger in short story "His Last Bow"; an omen of what was to come. Holmes says to Watson:
"There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less and a cleaner, better stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared."
Conan Doyle often reflected current realities in his stories. "His Last Bow" was published in the fall of 1917, as the Great War was raging.