Seasons for the Senses, by Mae Clair

How difficult do you find it to write about spring when snow is on the ground? Or the festive hustle-bustle of the Christmas holiday when you’re planning a beach party? As a writer, it’s easy to dip into our imagination and resurrect a setting on which to draw no matter the time of year. I don’t need to sit poolside with the sun on my face and the scent of chlorine in the air to write about a summer swim. Most of the time it isn’t plausible to have our fictional seasons coincide with reality. If you’re like me, you probably start writing during one season and wrap your book in another.

Creatice concept image of setting sun reflected in still lake waCase in point—I put the finishing touches on my latest WIP, THE MYSTERY OF ECLIPSE LAKE this past weekend. ELICPSE takes place in early summer, yet as I wrote sun-soaked scene after sun-soaked scene, it was to the symphony of the wind howling outside. Daytime temperatures didn’t climb above the low 30s and the sky was a bleak gray canvas.  It would have been nice to hear the crickets and tree frogs I mention in my story, or smell the unique mixture of lake water and boat fuel permeating the novel’s marina. Instead, I’ve been inundated with snow.

And sleet. And freezing rain. And more freezing rain.

Writing isn’t seasonal, but it does make me realize how often I choose a particular time of year in which to frame my stories. All writers have a cache of stored work.  In looking back over mine, I favor using late spring/early summer as the preferred cornerstone for my novels. Autumn is another favorite, particularly the month of October. Bringing up the rear? You guessed it—our chilly friend winter.

As a season, winter gets a bad rap. I realize there are plenty of people who love it and, okay, it does have some intrinsic appeal. Some. Like cuddling in front of a fireplace, the glimmer of starlight on freshly fallen snow, or bundling beneath warm blankets with someone you love. Overall, I’d just as soon skip it.

Creative concept idea of Winter landscape coming out of pages inBut here’s the shocker–as much as I don’t care to experience it or write about winter, I love reading books that use it as a setting. Anyone ever read NORTHERN LIGHTS by Nora Roberts? I was enthralled by how vividly she brought the Alaskan setting to life. And I will gladly read and reread THE RINGED CASTLE by Dorothy Dunnett simply to wrap myself in the author’s phenomenal descriptions of bitterly cold Czarist Russia. A feast for the senses. In the hands of a skilled writer winter sparkles, bewitches and even comes off as something marginally tolerable. Amazing! 🙂

So what do you think of seasonal settings? Do you have a favorite for writing and/or reading? Do you find it hard to write about summer while experiencing winter or vice versa?

22 thoughts on “Seasons for the Senses, by Mae Clair

  1. As far as seasons go, I love fall..the leaves change (except in South Carolina, where they just turn brown and fall off), the air starts to get that little tang, the temps fall of and start to get chilly in the evening…perfect. Oh, and it’s a great time to fish, too 🙂
    But I have to say I love summer settings in books. Heat, sweat, dust, the heat waves coming of smoldering pavement as you squint to see what in hell that is walking toward you from a distance…
    Great article, Mae…and duly blogged, tweeted, faced, googled, linked, stumbled and tumbled 🙂

    Thomas
    http://thomasrydder.wordpress.com/

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    • Hi, Thomas! Now you have me wanting to read a book set during the hot dusty summer months. I love the way you describe the seasons 🙂

      Thanks so much for sharing my post all over creation, LOL. YOU ROCK!!

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      • Unfortunately, since I enjoy eating so much, I’ve started to ROLL lately too 🙂
        Can’t offer you any set in the desert…I could suggest one set in southwestern Pennsylvania, though…

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      • LOL!. And yes, I will be checking that one out. Already on my TBR list. Hope the release is going well.

        BTW, I set most of my books in Pennsylvania. 🙂

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  2. Wonderful post, Mae. I’m with you, I don’t care for winter, at all. If it weren’t so darn greedy, stealing perfectly good months away from fall and spring, I might feel more kindly toward it. LOL But each winter seems to get longer. Sigh. I suppose I could appreciate a winter setitng in a book — when it’s sweltering summer outside. 🙂

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    • Yes, yes, yes! Winter seems to be getting longer as I get older. If it would confine itself to December, when I’m all about Christmas, festive cheer, hot chocolate and mittens, I’d be blissfully content. Come January 1st it needs to be outta here! I’m all for channeling summer! 🙂

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  3. Congrats, Mae, on finishing your wip! That is HUGE! You are an AUTHOR! You write BOOKS! Not just one book, but several, one after the other. You are DOING it! YAY!

    Okay, now that I’ve got my cheers out of the way, let’s talk seasons:) I love winter. I live in Seattle, and the winters are rainy and blah, but I get to stay inside and write and have lots of great coffee dates. The summers here are even more gorgeous because of the dreary winters, but that means whenever the sun is out, I feel obligated to take the kids out to play. I get some outside reading time thanks to my Kindle, but I can’t really focus on writing while the kids are outside playing, so my writing definitely drops off in summer. That’s why winter is my absolute favorite!

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    • Thank you for the cheers, Jessi. That made me grin 🙂

      I do get more writing done in winter than summer so I guess it has its uses. I’ll still take sitting outside with my laptop on my deck in the summer any day over the chilly stuff, LOL. Your coffee dates sound great though, and I can see how you’d want to be outside in the summer with the kids. BTW, one of my favorite times to write is when it rains. You’ve got built-in inspiration up there in Seattle! 😀

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  4. I’ve never really thought about the seasons in my books, but looking back now, three of my YA books all take place at the beginning of the summer holidays from school – hmm.
    Congrats on finishing your book – that’s a huge achievement and I’ll hope you’ll celebrate it somehow.

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    • Hello to another summer, gal, LOL. My books seem to favor that time of year too, Emma.

      Thanks for the congrats. I was going to take a small breather but just got the line edits from my publisher on TWELFTH SUN my August release, so it looks like I’ll be hitting the keyboard again this weekend. 🙂

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    • Hi, Sheri! So wonderful to see you on my blog. 🙂 Aren’t the photos gorgeous? I fell in love with them the moment I saw them and couldn’t believe how perfectly they fit the post. Honestly, one of my favorite thing about blogging is searching for photos to go with my posts. I really enjoy matching them up!

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  5. At present, I live in the desert and we have hot and cold…and maybe, if we’re lucky… we’ll have a few days of autumn and spring. Still, I have enjoyed living in various places that actually give us a season, and it’s those memories I call up when I need to write them into a scene… and there are times I use music to make those images a bit more vivid… you know, the Beach boys for summer… Winter Wonderland for winter…

    Good post Mae! I enjoyed it.

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    • Hi, Debbie. I’ve only been exposed to the desert once, but I was enthrallled by it from the time I was a kid. Seeing it did not disappoint. Good call on the music. It’s great for conjuring a specific setting. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. So glad you enjoyed the post!

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  6. Fun post, Mae. I find that seasons, and weather in particular, play a role in nearly all my stories. I clued into how valuable seasons and environmental conditions were to add conflict to the plot from Alistair MacLean. He was masterful in using the environment as a character in his stories, especially his early ones.

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    • Wonderful insight, Stanalei. You’re so right that the environment can factor as a character in a story. I’m no Alistair MacLean but I love to play with that. I remember writing a short story years ago where the weather became a character. Much fun to draw on our surroundings.

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  7. Hi mae I haven’t vanished into the piles of paper on my desk-yet. Hmm that’s one problem I don’t have. During NaNo I wrote several spring scenes, even though November is one of the worst months here. Right now we’re having the freezing stuff too

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    • Sometimes channeling the off season is a wonderful treat, Sue. With all that freezing stuff out there right now, it’s nice to write about spring. Hope your weather shapes up soon too!

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  8. I’m with Emma, I’ve never really even thought about it. It may be because my last book was in Hell, and there’s only one season there – Hot. But in the first book I wrote about late summer/early fall in the Midwest and I was able to draw from my love of that time of year.

    Great post and Yay! on finishing up your WIP! Congrats!!!

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    • You were definitely limited in your seasonal choices with SEEKER OF FATE, L.J! LOL!

      Summer and early fall are great seasons to employ as setting. My favorites 🙂 I always get a rush when I’m writing a book set in the season I’m actually experiencing at the time, though it doesn’t happen often. Kind of like an added bonus when they mesh.

      Thanks for the congrats! I still have clean-up and polishing to do but the hard part is over. WOOT!

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  9. I love winter in stories even though I don’t care for the season because I dislike being cold so much. Most of my stories take place in winter or autumn, and I have to make a conscious effort to alter that. However, where I live, we don’t get much of a winter compared to the rest of the U.S., and so I suppose I have a fascination with it. I also have an aversion to summer in books if I’m honest. I think it’s because I associate summer with 100+ temperatures, sunburn, and days where the heat and humidity suck all energy from a person. To me, those are not appeal story conditions in my book.

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    • So weird how where we live plays into our settings. You don’t get enough winter and where I live, we get too much. By the same token, I don’t think I’d enjoy summer so much if it was filled with 100+ degree days. That’s too hot!

      Great insight, Laura! Thanks for commenting!

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