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Saturday, 7 November 2015
IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT .......... LINDA MITCHELMORE
'It was a dark and stormy night'. Was there ever a book opening as derided as this one? Actually, I don't see what the grumble is all about - I mean, it sets the scene doesn't it? Edward Bulwer-Lytton who wrote those words also coined other catchphrases - 'The pen is mightier than the sword', 'the great unwashed', 'the pursuit of the almighty dollar'. But it is for this novel opening line that he is best remembered. And it's got me thinking. Do we make use of weather in our own writing enough? I know I'm probably guilty that I don't, although I do make an effort to say it is raining sometimes and not constant sunshine for my heroines.
So how can I rectify that? After all, weather can be important in a novel when, say, it is part of the setting. Or when it affects character - and aren't most of us affected in some way by the weather? Weather can also affect the plot, can it not? Think on this - a wedding spoiled because of rain in some way; a drought playing havoc with a character's entry to the horticultural show; fog or snow disrupting travel, or causing an accident.
And weather can be symbolic and can be used to show how a character is feeling inside. If, say, your heroine is waiting for her husband/son/father/lover to return from golf or wherever and he is a bit late, when the wind picks up she is, perhaps, now mildly concerned. But as the the wind gets higher and higher and the rain heavier and heavier and the garden furniture begins to be thrown around the garden and he is still not back she is almost in panic mode now, isn't she? The seasons, too, have their own weather - or at least they used to although they all seem to be merging into one these days. But even that can be used effectively in our writing.
It is so British to talk about the weather, isn't it? And I don't think there's anything wrong with that because it will get strangers talking in a queue or at a football/tennis/golf match when it starts to rain or is unseasonably hot whereas without the weather element they might never have spoken at all. And couldn't a woman - in fiction or in real life - find the love of her life in just such a situation? And I for one should write about it more, too. Hmm, I feel, if not a novel, then a short story coming on. But perhaps I'll leave Edward Bulwer-Lytton to his iconic opening.......