Guest blogger Julie Holmes: Writing by the Seasons

It’s finally starting to feel like fall in central Pennsylvania after an unseasonably warm October. That change in temps is the perfect intro for my next guest who takes an in-depth look at using the seasons to influence the plot of your story.

Julie Holmes blogs at Facets of a Muse and is an uber supportive friend and blogger. She’s got a fun and quirky sense of humor that shows in posts about her muse (who is always drafting mine for pub crawls), the writing life, gardening and cats. You can’t go wrong with cats. Just saying.

Hop over to Julie’s, check out her blog, then show her some comment luv below. She’s placed her own wonderful spin on writing for the seasons. Take it away, Julie…


Hello! *waves* A hearty “Thank You” to Mae for once again inviting me to guest on her blog. This is a nice place, Mae. Can’t wait to hear more about your new series (hint πŸ™‚ ).

Since Mae left me up to my own devices when it came to a subject for a guest post (insert evil laugh here πŸ˜€ ), I shuffled through my mental idea bag as an October rainstorm poured outside. Not to mention Mae’s recent post about writing by the seasons on Story Empire. Well, it seems Mother Nature is trying to get my attention.

Living in Minnesota allows me the privilege of experiencing all four seasons. Each season seems to have its own attitudes and personality. Spring is hopeful and happyβ€”most of the time. When Spring is moody and rainy, she often makes up for it with rainbows.

beautiful rainbow over open field

Summer is brilliant and fun-loving, but sometimes likes to be the center of attention a little too much with blasting heat or angry storms.

golf course backed by lake

Autumn is quiet, the friend you call when you want a companion on a walk. Sometimes she can be a blowhard, which just ruins her dye job.

autumn bank and tree in fiery colors over dark lake

And winter, well, they don’t call it the Old Man for nothing. Winter’s attitude swings from peaceful stillness to howling bluster.

cluster of trees covered with snow

Okay, I know not everyone has all four seasons, and if they do, they may not be as distinct as they are in the upper Midwest. When you experience one or more of the seasons, using the seasons as part of your setting is almost second nature. The fun comes in when you use the season as more than just the backdrop for your story.

Say you’re writing a romance. Summer just begs to be the backdrop. Think walks along the beach or summer dresses or lounging in the sun. Eating dinner on a patio. Barbeques. Pretty typical fare, right? Well, unless it’s one of those holiday romance stories about Christmas parties and sleigh rides and cuddling by the fireplace. Still, pretty typical.

Okay, now give the season a bigger part in the story. Maybe switch it up a bit. Spring rains, thunderstorms, and wind. The heroine gets stuck in the mud, and the hunky neighbor guy stops to tow her out. If it hadn’t been spring and rainy, it wouldn’t have been muddy, and the hunky neighbor would have to have another excuse to cross paths with the heroine.

Let’s try autumn. Falling leaves, apple cider, pumpkin patches, harvest, Halloween. Our heroine is helping her grandfather get the harvest in. Her grandfather has a heart attack, and can’t finish getting the harvest in. She can’t do it alone. Along comes the hunky grandson of her grandfather’s “arch enemy”, who offers to help bring in the harvest.

Hmm. What about winter? Winter’s easy. PIck anything: furnace goes out, roads blocked by a snowstorm, the holidays. It’s a gimmee, that FREE space on the bingo card.

For example, in my upcoming book, I use winter as my season character. One of the key scenes between the main female character and main male character takes place only because of a blizzard. The blizzard forces them together, because the female protagonist can’t easily get to a safe refuge, and the male protagonist won’t let her stay alone. (You’ll have to read the book for the restβ€”mwahahahaha!)

In the second book, spring is my chosen season, because the snow melt of spring causes rivers to run high and fast, perfect for disposing of a body. And they’re cold, which hampers the M.E. determining time of death. On a less morbid note, the awakening of spring flowers and fresh leaves on the trees has a romantic effect on the story. Sudden spring storms can also toss wrenches into plans.

Summer offers possibilities beyond outdoor concerts and swimsuits. How about a gardener who has a family emergency and asks the neighbor to water the garden. Guess what? The neighbor either forgets and the garden dries up, or the neighbor remembers, but it rains for three days straight, and the garden drowns. What does the gardener do upon returning home? If they got along before the emergency, do they still get along? What if the gardener was growing his prize-winning dahlias? Or a special tomato hybrid he was betting on to help him win first place at the state fair?

Use the season as more than just window dressing. Use it to enhance conflict. The key is to use the season to affect the choices the protagonist or antagonist must make in the story. Those choices can take the story in one direction or another. Use it to make solving the crime more difficult, to force two opposing characters together, to make characters take alternate routes that take them to no-man’s land or paradise.

Try to utilize the season in a way that is unexpected. A sudden summer deluge can cause a mudslide that can keep the bad guys from getting to the hero, or strand the heroine with no way of contacting help. A fall bonfire can get out of control, a hay ride can be the vehicle of romance, or a leaf pile can cover a body. And there’s Halloween. Let your imagination run.

Another hearty thank you to Mae for hosting me. I’m off to check out the changing leaves and figure out how I can cast my favorite season in a story.


76 thoughts on “Guest blogger Julie Holmes: Writing by the Seasons

  1. Mae, this is a lovely guest post from dearest Julie – I’m a huge fan of hers and great to see her over on your blog! πŸ˜€ Julie, wow! I love the photos of your four seasons…we have them here in the UK but they seem indistinct in comparison as if covered by a certain dullness, apart from the odd startlingly crisp day.

    Julie, you write beautifully and descriptively of how the seasons become a key component of your books and writers will do well to avail themselves of these seasons. Not only a perfect backdrop and setting of the mood but also a vital plot component. An excellent guest post, Julie and a joy to read! πŸ˜ƒβ€οΈ

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aw, Annika, you are too generous! Thank you so much for your wonderful comments (sending a big thank-you hug across the pond πŸ˜€ ) I love using the seasons to make characters’ lives difficult, because they are so much a part of life here in the Midwest. I think if I ever moved farther south (like to Hawaii or the Caribbean–or even Florida) I’d really miss them.

      Thank you so much for stopping by, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome, Annika! It’s great to have you visit Julie in my small corner of the blogopshere. Julie put together a great post and sent along some inspiring photos to illustrate her points. I’m also lucky enough to live in an area that experiences all four seasons, and while I enjoy those changes, I could manage with a shorter winter πŸ™‚

      I love reading books where the season almost becomes a character itself. They always leave a strong impact with me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fall is my favorite time of the year. I grew up where there isn’t four seasons, but now live where there is. Give me a dark and stormie night with a good thunder storm:) You make a valid point of bringing the seasons into a story and all the extras they can add. Crimes, budding love so many options. Great post and take on the weather!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I would definitely miss the seasonal change if I ever moved, but sometimes the snow and cold of winter just go on too long, LOL.

      A good thunder storm is an awesome plot device, D.L. I used that one in A Desolate Hour and had so much fun playing with the weather.

      Thanks so much for visiting with Julie today!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Great to see Julie over here getting her groove on. πŸ™‚ I love using setting, including seasons, as factors in a story and we’re missing opportunities when we don’t. Wonderful examples of the light and dark for each season and how it can mesh with the characters and plot. Happy Writing!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Beautiful photos, Julie, and love the way you weave the seasons into your story line thoughts. I would not want to live somewhere without the distinct seasons and have used all of them for my humor essays, except now that I think of it not sure I’ve written about spring. Oh, maybe that’s because in Maine we skip that one and go directly from winter to mud season, then summer. Anyway, great post with creative ideas!

    Liked by 2 people

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