Whether or not it matters

I’m going to give a quick shout out to something that affects us daily in one way or another. Something that can change the course of plans in a heartbeat. Emotions are tied to it directly and indirectly. It is something that is talked about so much that the news and special television stations dedicate time to it.  I may have touched on this before, but recently it was brought to my attention again. The ultimate setting maker or destroyer.  Everyone everywhere is affected buy it and it’s completely out of our control.

The weather. Whether or not I use it, whether or not it matters, is solely based on my remembering to include it.  I’m not talking about a full paragraph or two describing the shape, color, and texture of the cumulonimbus cloud or how the sun hits the sidewalk perfectly. I’m talking about basic behind the scenes acknowledgment for a simple scene. A casual injection of what the outside world is up to beyond that it is day or night, without dragging it out unnecessarily.  I can wax poetic on the sun and moon all I want, but they are not the weather, they are part of the setting for weather and a time of day indicator. Sure, I mention them.  So what? The sentence says it’s sunny. That doesn’t tell me if I need a bathing suit, sweater or full on arctic snow gear because sunny in February means your face will be hurting for sure. “It’s sunny and warm out” is boring. In fact, I’ve read some pretty lame “show” of the sun and rain etc. I’ve read some over the top super-flowery, oh-my-God-will-it-ever-end descriptions of the rain. It’s rain we all know that it falls from the sky and it’s wet. But how is it falling? How does it physically interact or effect?

Different weather can bring different interactions we all know how to look up alternate words for the specific weather to bring in the variations of artistic description. Here are some examples of showing the weather and the results of it in the environment.

Windy

Blowing hair
Something was taken from a hand by a gust
Things falling over like trees or signs
Something important blowing away
Leaves rustling or skittering across the ground
Skirt fluttering

The gust pushed her to the edge of the sidewalk, her shoe tipped and her ankle rolled. Falling to the ground she yelped in pain.

Snow

Flakes landing on lashes
Can’t see the car ahead for the whiteout
The crunch beneath the boot
The cool fresh smell The sparkle of the newly fallen flakes in the lamplight

The sounds of the night were muffled by the large tufts of white, floating gently to the earth.

Rain

Dripping down the face
Sticking the hair to the neck
Soaking the clothes
The patter against a window pain
Rinsing away the dirt on the street
Washing away the evidence

The umbrella did little to protect her as the wind pushed hard, soaked in seconds she trudged on.

Fog  A splendid setting for horror or suspense. But also romance if you want it to.

Reduced visibility
Subdued details
Cool damp micro droplets gathering on the hairs of one’s arm
The swirl in the mist as a car drove by

Jess walked slowly and listened for what she couldn’t see beyond two meters around her. The soft grey-white air smelled as damp as it felt on her skin.

Heat

Sweat, trickling, dripping, running, glistening etc.
Sticky clothes
Lethargy
Mirage
Bone dry
Cracking soil
Burning hot surface

Alice sat back on the porch. As wonderful as a new glass of iced lemonade would be, the effort to get it was too much. The meager shade provided no refuge as she waited for her brother to get home.

Cloudless sky aka sunny (Yeah I know)

Applies sunblock
Puts on a sun hat
Puts on sunglasses
Pulls down the visor of the car while driving
Shades eyes with hand as she opens the gate
Shadow play: The disappearing shadows of noon. The elongated evening shadows.

Kevin squinted as he looked up at the sign. He lifted his hand to shade his eyes and sighed heavily. “Four more blocks.”  

 When I’m writing weather into my story if it’s not a significant part of the chapter or story I will keep it just for setting embellishment. But if it can be melded into an important interaction…

 Sasha gingerly sidestepped the glittering puddle. She didn’t see the man approaching deep in conversation with his partner. He bumped Sasha’s arm teetering her off balance and directly into leftovers of last night’s storm.
“Seriously?” She jumped out of the water stomping her feet to shake off the dirty water.
The man turned long enough to mutter, “Sorry.” Before continuing on.
“Bad morning?”
Sasha looked up from examining her shoes to see Cal holding out a real cotton handkerchief. “It’s clean.”
“Thank you.” Before she could shift her briefcase to take it he squatted and patted her shoe dry than the other. “You didn’t have to do that.”
Cal stood and tucked the handkerchief into the inside pocket of his gray suit jacket. Tall dark, handsome hero in a well-fitted suit the color of armor. She nearly giggled at his sincere gesture.
“You have your hands full, I don’t.” He casually waved his hand at the café behind him. “Coffee?”
“Well, since mine was knocked from my hands earlier by a jerk kid on a skateboard and you were so medievally kind, the least I can do is buy you a cup Detective.”
“Hmm bad morning indeed.”
They walked the short distance to the Cozy café and he held the door open for her. The name did it justice, dark wood, and cushioned booths. The tables near the windows all taken so they found a booth.
“How were you carrying a coffee with all that?” He nodded toward the briefcase, laptop bag, lunch bag, and camera case she set down before taking off her jacket.
The warm café was a welcome reprieve.
“Way earlier and I didn’t have my hands full then. Surveying the area she sat across from Cal. “Cops.” She frowned.

“The station is just around the corner Sasha.”
“I know, I don’t usually come this way. I was…” She stopped explaining while the waitress filled the mugs already on the table.
“Anything else?”
“Just coffee thank you.” Sasha started putting sugar in hers with cream.
Cal agreed and eyed the camera case. “You stopped at the park to take pictures of rain on the leaves and flowers as the sun came up.”
Her mouth fell open. “I did.”
“Don’t look so surprised. Those old-fashioned gardens on a morning like this are bound to draw an artist. Though you’re not dressed for it.”
“Oh, I changed my shoes in the car. I left it by the park and thought the walk would improve my mood before I have to face… um, go to work.”
“Hmm.” Cal sipped his steaming black coffee

…  

Valery squinted at the early morning sun and tugged at her scarf. She unzipped her jacket as she got into her car. Sliding the key into the ignition, she started the engine immediately turning the heat off. She slipped her sunglasses into place thinking of bagels and hot coffee as she drove the short distance to work.

Chancing a sip of her coffee at a red light Valery watched the people cross. The cup paused halfway to her mouth. Setting it in the cup-holder, she stared open mouthed until the couple deep in conversation passed.
Sasha you little minx. What secrets have you been keeping from me?Valery’s chuckle startled herself. You didn’t even notice me. I sincerely need to know what you’re up to.
Smiling as the light turned green, her tires spun on the still wet road as she hit the gas. Going to work was less of a drag now. Why was Sasha walking to work with the handsome guy from the bar last week?

If I needed to make the weather more of a factor I would, but unless an epic journey is delayed by a snowstorm or two someone’s are trapped romantically by a sudden downpour I don’t punch my readers in the face with the weather. It’s there, it always is and should be, I just don’t think it has to rule every scenario if it’s not needed.

My advice about the weather and whether or not to use it.
Even if it’s not a key part of the plot/story mention it to set the scene, it’s as important as clothes. The reader might not need every single blow-your-brains-out detail but a little tidbit is enough to fill in the mental canvas adequately.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Doubt clouds out creativity

Tulips in July

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

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How did that sound?

When I read words I speak them in my mind’s voice. It’s fascinating when you read something that has the power of suggestion behind it changing the voice automatically for you. This can be an image or description or pre-dialogue dialogue tag.

Establishing a character’s physical image is as important as what they might sound like when speaking. Do they have a deep voice, high-pitched, nasally, squeaky or are they flat and toneless? Do they stutter, pause or speak with a rhythmic flow?  Do they have an accent or local dialect? Are they male or female? Working this into the story is as important as what color hair and eyes they have. I keep my accented people to a minimum. I have no trouble announcing their accent in narration or by a character flat-out commenting on it. I don’t hammer that home every time they talk though.

For example.

Dale leaned over to whisper in Amber’s ear, “Coast is clear.”
Amber got up to sneak off to her hideout to steal a moment of sanctuary from the world and Scott.

Automatically the voice is male and whispered. Same goes for shouting, yelling, or any other intonation that can be tagged to the dialogue.

Valery flopped back on the couch. “I doubt it.”
Jackson licked his lips and lowered his voice to a sultry tone. “I’m going to make you beg, then scream my name.”
“We’ll see about that,” Valery said as Jackson leaned in to bury his face in her neck.

Chances are, you applied the correct tones to the voices in your minds voice. This is why it’s important I’m careful not to drop the ball when writing. I’ve talked about the importance of dialogue and action tags to convey correct emotional tone before, but it is just as important to make sure the correct voice is heard as well.

Now for fun if you were to read  “The sun blazed its way across the azure sky. Scorching the Earth to a barren wasteland. It steals the last remains of water from the small lake; condemning all that depend on it to either move on or perish.”

Meh boring right? now try it with this dialogue tag.

Sir David Attenborough gestured around himself and took a deep breath before continuing his narration. “The sun blazed its way across the azure sky. Scorching the Earth to a barren wasteland. It steals the last remains of water from the small lake; condemning all that depend on it to either move on or perish.”

Unless you don’t know him, chances are you read that in a lovely Male British accent in your minds voice.

This effect is quite powerful when an image is shown near or within the dialogue or quote. A novel, however, is not a picture book. So it is up to the writer to paint the image of the speaker. Hopefully, it is done before dialogue starts or quickly during.

If a character has an accent or specific dialect stick to it. However, a word of caution, saying they speak in an accent over ad over or remarking on it in dialogue or narration is lazy and irritating if done too often. I have a character in BiaAtlas with a southern accent. I give her simple dialogue cues to remind the reader instead of bashing them over the head by saying ‘she said in her accent’. I’ve already established at the beginning she has a light melodic voice with a soft southern accent. So as the story progresses I make sure to include sayings, phrases, catchwords, slang and the very, very occasional narrative reminder.

A word of caution, even if I think I know enough about an accent or local dialect I don’t. I do research and lots of it.  It’s a fine balance too over the top and the reader will not respond favorably. If a word needs to be spelled phonetically to force the reader to read the accent, I’m super careful about that. It can become confusing and frustrating to read if it’s too much or too often. I’m personally okay with the occasional phonetic reminder, but consistency is key.

Not all characters need to have something remarkable about the way they sound. Male or female and young or old is often enough to get a reader through happily. This is another example of too much of a good thing can spoil the outcome.

My advice about assigning a voice.
Once you set up a character describe their speaking voice. If it’s unique or important to the story make that clear. The reader will establish their own version of the voice in their head and as long as they know who is speaking it’s more likely to be applied. Less is more in this case IMO.

-Sheryl

Other related posts

Speak up!

Don’t say my name!

What did you mean?

Tag! You’re it.

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

morgan-freeman-jpg

Disclaimer: Neither Sir David Attenborough nor Morgan Freeman said any of the words above. I wrote them specifically for this post and just for fun.

Hideout
Rhythmic

Bury

Whether or not it matters

Let’s give a quick shout out to something that affects us daily in one way or another. Something that can change the course of plans in a heartbeat. Emotions are tied to it directly and indirectly. It is something that is talked about so much that the news and special television stations dedicate time to it.  I may have touched on this before, but recently it was brought to my attention again. The ultimate setting maker or destroyer.  Everyone everywhere is affected buy it and it’s completely out of our control.

The weather. Whether or not I use it, whether or not it matters, is solely based on my remembering to include it.  I’m not talking about a full paragraph or two describing the shape, color, and texture of the cumulonimbus cloud, or how the sun hits the sidewalk perfectly. I’m talking about basic behind the scenes acknowledgment for a simple scene. A casual injection of what the outside world is up to beyond that it is day or night, without dragging it out unnecessarily.  I can wax poetic on the sun and moon all I want, but they are not the weather, they are part of the setting for weather and a time of day indicator. Sure, I mention them.  So what? The sentence says it’s sunny. That doesn’t tell me if I need a bathing suit, sweater or full on arctic snow gear because sunny in February means your face will be hurting for sure. “It’s sunny and warm out” is boring. In fact I’ve read some pretty lame “show” of the sun and rain etc. I’ve read some over the top super-flowery, oh-my-God-will-it-ever-end descriptions of the rain. It’s rain we all know that it falls from the sky and it’s wet. But how is it falling? How does it physically interact or effect?

Different weather can bring different interactions we all know how to look up alternate words for the specific weather to bring in the variations of artistic description. Here are some examples of showing the weather and the results of it in the environment.

Windy

Blowing hair
Something was taken from a hand by a gust
Things falling over like trees or signs
Something important blowing away
Leaves rustling or skittering across the ground
Skirt fluttering

The gust pushed her to the edge of the sidewalk, her shoe tipped and her ankle rolled. Falling to the ground she yelped in pain.

Snow

Flakes landing on lashes
Can’t see the car ahead for the whiteout
The crunch beneath the boot
The cool fresh smell The sparkle of the newly fallen flakes in the lamplight

The sounds of the night were muffled by the large tufts of white, floating gently to the earth.

Rain

Dripping down the face
Sticking the hair to the neck
Soaking the clothes
The patter against a window pain
Rinsing away the dirt on the street
Washing away the evidence

The umbrella did little to protect her, as the wind pushed hard. She was soaked in seconds she trudged on.

Fog  A splendid setting for horror or suspense. But also romance if you want it to.

Reduced visibility
Subdued details
Cool damp micro droplets gathering on the hairs of one’s arm
The swirl in the mist as a car drove by

Jess walked slowly and listened for what she couldn’t see beyond two meters around her. The soft grey-white air smelled as damp as it felt on her skin.

Heat

Sweat, trickling, dripping, running, glistening etc.
Sticky clothes
Lethargy
Mirage
Bone dry
Cracking soil
Burning hot surface

Alice sat back on the porch. As wonderful as a new glass of iced lemonade would be, the effort to get it was too much. The meager shade provided no refuge as she waited for her brother to get home.

Cloudless sky aka sunny (Yeah I know)

Applies sunblock
Puts on a sun hat
Puts on sunglasses
Pulls down the visor of the car while driving
Shades eyes with hand
Shadow play: The disappearing shadows of noon. The elongated evening shadows.

Kevin squinted as he looked up at the sign. He lifted his hand to shade his eyes and sighed heavily. “Four more blocks.”  

 When I’m writing weather into my story if it’s not a significant part of the chapter or story I will keep it just for setting embellishment. But if it can be melded into an important interaction…

 Sasha gingerly sidestepped the glittering puddle. She didn’t see the man approaching deep in conversation with his partner. He bumped Sasha’s arm teetering her off balance and directly into leftovers of last night’s storm.
“Seriously?” She jumped out of the water stomping her feet to shake off the dirty water.
The man turned long enough to mutter, “Sorry.” Before continuing on.
“Bad morning?”
Sasha looked up from examining her shoes to see Cal holding out a real cotton handkerchief. “It’s clean.”
“Thank you.” Before she could shift her briefcase to take it he squatted and patted her shoe dry than the other. “You didn’t have to do that.”
Cal stood and tucked the handkerchief into the inside pocket of his gray suit jacket. Tall dark, handsome hero in a well-fitted suit the color of armor. She nearly giggled at his sincere gesture.
“You have your hands full, I don’t.” He casually waved his hand at the café behind him. “Coffee?”
“Well, since mine was knocked from my hands earlier by a jerk kid on a skateboard and you were so medievally kind, the least I can do is buy you a cup Detective.”
“Hmm bad morning indeed.”
They walked the short distance to the Cozy café and he held the door open for her. The name did it justice, dark wood, and cushioned booths. The tables near the windows all taken so they found a booth.
“How were you carrying a coffee with all that?” He nodded toward the briefcase, laptop bag, lunch bag, and camera case she set down before taking off her jacket.
The warm café was a welcome reprieve.
“Way earlier and I didn’t have my hands full then. Surveying the area she sat across from Cal. “Cops.” She frowned.

“The station is just around the corner Sasha.”
“I know, I don’t usually come this way. I was…” She stopped explaining while the waitress filled the mugs already on the table.
“Anything else?”
“Just coffee thank you.” Sasha started putting sugar in hers with cream.
Cal agreed and eyed the camera case. “You stopped at the park to take pictures of rain on the leaves and flowers as the sun came up.”
Her mouth fell open. “I did.”
“Don’t look so surprised. Those old-fashioned gardens on a morning like this are bound to draw an artist. Though you’re not dressed for it.”
“Oh, I changed my shoes in the car. I left it by the park and thought the walk would improve my mood before I have to face… um, go to work.”
“Hmm.” Cal sipped his steaming black coffee

…  

Valery squinted at the early morning sun and tugged at her scarf. She unzipped her jacket as she got into her car. Sliding the key into the ignition, she started the engine immediately turning the heat off. She slipped her sunglasses into place thinking of bagels and hot coffee as she drove the short distance to work.

Chancing a sip of her coffee at a red light Valery watched the people cross. The cup paused halfway to her mouth. Setting it in the cup-holder, she stared open mouthed until the couple deep in conversation passed.
Sasha you little minx. What secrets have you been keeping from me?Valery’s chuckle startled herself. You didn’t even notice me. I sincerely need to know what you’re up to.
Smiling as the light turned green, her tires spun on the still wet road as she hit the gas. Going to work was less of a drag now. Why was Sasha walking to work with the handsome guy from the bar last week?

If I needed to make the weather more of a factor I would, but unless an epic journey is delayed by a snowstorm or two someones trapped romantically by a sudden downpour I don’t punch my readers in the face with the weather. It’s there, it always is and should be, I just don’t think it has to rule every scenario if it’s not needed.

My advice about the weather.
Even if it’s not a key part of the plot/story mention it to set the scene, it’s as important as clothes. The reader might not need every single blow-your-brains-out detail but a little tidbit is enough to fill in the mental canvas adequately.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Doubt clouds out creativity

Tulips in July

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Sincere
Soil