Winter and Writing

cold thermometer

Welcome to winter in South Florida, 2016. This year so far it’s been a roller coaster as far as temperature is concerned. Saturday night and Sunday morning we saw the roughest weather short of a hurricane in the summer. It’s still January, and there’s a hurricane in the NORTH Atlantic Ocean. The effects of the strongest El Nino in years are hitting us right between the palm trees.

Last night the low got all the way down to 58, and tonight is calling for 49! This is FLORIDA for crying out loud.

Okay, temporary rant over now. As a writer, you hear the old adage “never start with the weather” as in “It was a dark and stormy night”. But if the crux of the scene or story or novel you are writing hinges on a weather event or two, it behooves you to include a description of said weather.

So how do you manage to inform your reader as to the atmosphere of the work without being an information dump truck? Show, don’t tell. In other words, when describing something to do with the events of the story, etc., place descriptive elements in the dialogue or the POV statements of your protagonist or antagonist.

An example of tell: The snow was white and drifted against the red barn. Max walked up to the open doorway. He pulled his gun. And waited.

An example of show in the same scene: Max struggled through the hip-deep snow drifts toward the open door of the horse barn. A blast of a horse’s scream pulled him closer. He felt the cold steel of the old gun in his coat pocket. He’d come prepared. Nobody stole his horses without consequences.

In the first instance, the text is boring, reading like a first grade primer text. In the second, you can feel the cold wind (without being told), hear the sudden scream of the terrified horse, and yet know that this man can take care of whatever happens next.

The first rule of writing, as far as I’m concerned, is tell a good story and pull the reader deep into the make-believe world you’ve created; so deep that when the book or story ends, the reader doesn’t want to leave.

When you’ve done that, you are a writer.

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