Thursday, October 11, 2007

Whether the weather?

Bob Hope used to say "England has four seasons - all of them in one day!" It had me thinking about the weather - and how this affects writers. It certainly is used by film makers. Think of the film Body Heat and imagine it set anywhere else but steamy Florida. Just would not work.

The glorious romantic novel Wuthering Heights could not be set anywhere else but the wilds of the Yorkshire Moors. That damp, wind swept, empty landscape lends itself to this passionate romance. The Yorkshire Moors is a place of dramatic weather.

Tuesday here in England, it was pouring with rain - yesterday the sun came out and it was blissfully warm. I was walking in the hills beyond the coastal strip of Morecambe Bay - a place of dangerous tides and shifting sands and magnificent views. You would write a different scene if it were a stormy day, yesterday the area looked quite benign and a gentle scene would be easy to put together.

Thomas Hardy, the great English novelist, uses the weather and the seasons effectively. Think Tess of the D'Urbavilles. When (I always think) the drippy Angel Clair sees her for the first time, she is dancing in a sun speckled meadow - so different from her in hard times, digging for turnips in a cold, frosty field in mid-winter. Gone is the happy carefree milkmaid.

I like to set books in warm climes when I can - I love the heat myself and feel happy then. But the winter storms can be very useful for scenes that require mystery, tension and suspense. There is something frightening about that bare tree tap tapping on the window pane. The wind whistling under the door...bound to have the reader asking. "What is going to happen?"

How boring it would be, I think to have no changing seasons at all - to have summer all year round, no rain - no glorious pictures of frost sparkling on the evergreen, what would film makers do? What would writers do?


Kathleen said...

What a great post! Weather is so important in marking the moods of a novel. Went from reading your Beloved Deceiver to Diane Setterfield's Thirteenth Tale and see the importance of weather in each novel.

Sarita Leone said...

I love this post! You're so right about the weather. Sometimes it's almost a character in its own right, depending on the importance the author gives it.

Wuthering Heights is one of my most favorite books ever, and I can't even begin to imagine the story without the rain-swept moors. It would have been entertaining, but it wouldn't have been the story I know and love. Can't imagine it all taking place in the tropics, or during an Alaskan snowstorm, LOL.

Thanks for such a lovely post! :)

Debbie Wallace said...

Boy, I never looked at it that way but you're so right Margaret! I love this post.