A Life Of Fiction CXLIV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Weather: Yes, I am going to talk about that most British of subjects: the weather. But not the weather outside (dull, grey, but unseasonably warm) but the weather which you find in my novels; and why I think that it is sometimes important to describe what is going on with the weather.

Rain: I have even had a novel with that title. Well, novella, I suppose, as it was not all that long. But, as a writer, I am fascinated by the descriptions of rain falling down, and the effect which such descriptions have on a piece of work. A novel starting with rain is different to a novel starting with happy-clappy sunshine. The expectations of the reader with be different. We associate rain with feeling lachrymose. Rain = tears. Many poets have made use of that connection. But rain can be other things.

In my novella Rain I conceived of a city, like in a film noir, where it always seems to be raining.

Here is a small section from the opening of Rain:

The droplets machine-gunned onto the windows of the offices of Daniels & Doone, Private Investigators, kamikaze-ing themselves on the glass, sliding down the panes like corpses.

Then down off the brown stone outside window ledges, that hangman’s drop to the dead ground below. Zigzagging streams across the wet paving stones, seeking out the nadir of the world, the lowest point to flow into. Flowing around all obstacles, around tan leather shoes, around red stilettos.

The rivulets jumped off the kerb, abandoning the sidewalk, for the surety of the gutter, the fast flowing stream glittering with the reflections of the street lamps. No stars to be seen, the rain clouds saw to that. No one was looking up, anyway. Not in this town.

Rushing along the gutters, gurgling like a strangler’s victim as they sought passage into the overflowing drains. Seeking the dark.

I have written a quadrilogy of books in which the seasons featured (Murder By The Dozen, Murder By The Book, Murder At The Seaside and Murder In The Woods) and, of course, with the different seasons you get different weather. Each of the books was set at a different time of the year. Murder By The Book was set during the winter. It was a perfect opportunity to have snow on the ground. I think that, in my novels, in those set at that time of year, that it snows far more often in my fiction than it does in real life.

Snow is different to rain, at least in literary terms. It can lie heavy on the ground, as a virgin white sheet, but perhaps stained, in one place, with the blood of a pointless murder, footprints leading away through the drifts. It can isolate if it comes down heavy enough, cutting off communities from the rest of the world. The idea of deep snow isolating communities is a trick which I have used more than once in my work.

Snow can be beautiful, in that it reflects the meagre light of the winter sun, making a December day brighter than it might otherwise be. Don’t forget that. Imagine the visual aspect of a white blanket on the world.

Here is a small extract from Murder By The Book:

Mrs Tompkins went through the side door into the St John’s church. The murders had not touched her, although she had been careful enough to lock her door until the killer was caught. But that was all over now. Now, her concerns were only about the weather. She did not particularly like the cold.

It was snowing, but only very lightly. Still, though, she was cold, and the odd flake clung to her dark green overcoat. Part of her wished that she was back at home, beside her fire. That was where her husband and her ginger tom cat would be, one sitting in an armchair, the other lying on the rug in front of the flames. She would have liked to have been in that other armchair, toasting her knees in front of the fire, rather than having them get cold.

Snow does not have to be like the arctic. It can fall light or heavy. Don’t feel that, if you have snow, that it has to be two foot thick.

Wind, too, features occasionally in my work. Perhaps it would feature more often if I lived in America, and I had experienced some of the tornadoes which that nation is subject to.

The wind most often featured is the wind blowing in a character’s face, making them feel numb. Wind, and cold, in my works is linked to being numb from the bad feelings of the world. The numbness takes the pain away. I suppose that it can blow away cobwebs, as well. The wind can be a force for good. It need not be a force of natural destruction.

Sunshine: I don’t do sunshine.


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