1. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    Does the weather matter?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Irish87, Jul 10, 2009.

    I'm editing my novel right now and a friend of mine is helping me a bit with the punctuation, just in case I suddenly forget what a comma is used for. Anyhow, he was reading the first chapter and he said he loved it, but that books should never start out describing the rain. Now, I have to admit that I cannot remember any novel I've read in the recent past that did start out describing the weather above other things. It just seems silly that such a thing would be a rule. I can understand some of the stereotypes they want to avoid, but this seems like an accurate way of simply describing the setting.

    The reason I'm using the weather as the first chapter to the extent that I am is because I honestly want the reader to get an idea of what the place looks like. Originally I simply mentioned that it was a "yellow day", which to me signifies that its cloudy and rain has fallen, but the sun is still shining through. When I had just that, people said that it wasn't enough.

    To me this all sounds so stupid.
     
  2. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I hate books that start out talking about the darn weather. Who cares about the weather? Unless it's a story about the weather itself, I suppose, like a hurricane or tornado thriller. But even there, you'd want to start the story with something more interesting. It's like when you meet a girl, do you think she wants to hear you talk about the weather or say something interesting or clever that makes her think, "Ooh, I like this one"?

    Look at the books you love in the genre you're writing and use those as guides on your own "pick up lines" you need to develop for your opening paragraphs.

    And it was Elmore Leonard who said never to start with the weather. Good luck! :)
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think people said it wasn't enough because "yellow day" doesn't really tell you anything. I would be confused by that. I might not know that you were even talking about the weather. Even if I did, it doesn't really tell me what the weather is like. You don't necessarily need more, but something that will clearly say what you mean.

    That being said, it doesn't always matter. In some cases it does. Weather can very quickly set the tone and mood of a scene. That's why it always starts so suddenly in movies when it fits the mood.
     
  4. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    Well the settings in the book are incredibly important to the main character. Especially when you consider his past when it comes to the scene, so adding the bad weather seemed like a good way of showing his trepidation. Unfortunately, I cannot tell the reader that before he begins reading. Writing would be so much easier if I could replicate myself and send myself to anyone who reads the book.

    Many of the settings in the novel are described sharply, including the rainy months before winter in the first scene and the dry summer in Arizona in the sixth chapter. I wanted them to be characters on their own, not just background pieces. Perhaps the correct question to have asked was how much weather can I use? I avoid using anything as a crutch, but certainly I should describe the situation the MC finds himself in.

    Thanks for any help.
     
  5. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's hard to tell without reading it for myself. Is it just straight weather talk at the opening or weather plus other narrative or action of some sort? Even in movies when weather is used to set the tone/mood, there are other objects in the scene acting in such a way as to round out the opening. Like in the recent Pride & Prejudice movie w/Keira Knightley (forgive me, I'm a girly girl :p), it opens with a scene of weather and sound of nature, but center to that image is the MC walking along completely enveloped in a book. So, yeah, the weather set a mood, but the MC & a bit of her personality were there as well.
     
  6. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    The significant aspects of the setting are all that's needed, but they ARE needed if the reader is avoid storing away uninteresting, insignificant stuff (or trying to). If something sounds important but later is revealed to be irrelevant (the reader may begin to distrust your writing). "It was a yellow day" sounds awfully significant to me (because it's unusual, and interestingly so). Way too significant to ignore from there on.

    So, if I'd read it (and I didn't), I might've been one of those folks who told you "it was a yellow day" wasn't enough. But I'm sure I wouldn't tell you not to use it in chapter one, or even at the very beginning. "It was a yellow day" sounds really intriguing to me. But I'd want to know why it's seen as that (through the eyes of whatever character is perceiving it that way--narrator, MC, whoever). If there is any "rule"-like thing that I'd say it would be that you never want to "simply" describe the setting (or weather) just to get it on the record, so to speak. The setting is only important to someone or to the storyline or tone of the writing (which are all integrally woven together).
     
  7. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    I think I read something that something linked from here a while ago that was a list of things agents have said they hate, and I'm sure staring by the describing the weather was one of them, at least.

    You dont have to not use weather at all, just don't have your opening sentence just about the weather. Whatever the characters are doing in the setting, they can be affected by weather. You can still talk about the weather, just dont mention it in the very first sentence, unless it links to a character's actions etc.
     
  8. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    The MC was sent to survey the damage caused to a house by a group of individuals. The first chapter starts out with him sitting in his car watching the clouds and wondering when the rain is going to start falling. From the very first line I make sure to put him in the scene. As soon as he gets out of the car he's calmed by the mist which is falling and, as he inspects the house, it begins to rain.

    There is no crackling thunder or nothing as he finds what he wants to find. I didn't want to fall into too much of a cliche.
     
  9. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    In that case that sounds ok to me, then. It sounds as though it directly relates to your character, ergo it is important. It's not like you've put a transcript of the tv weather forecast in as your opening. Get some other people to read the opening too, and see what they say. Remember everyone's opinion of your writing is just that, and by nature individual. If a lot of people read your work and say the same thing, then perhaps there is a 'problem'. I'm not saying your friend is wrong, simply that maybe whilst it might not 'work' for him as a reader, it might be fine.
     
  10. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I don't think there really are any "rules." It either works or it doesn't; there's no use in obsessing over proper form.

    As I see it, weather can be useful to set the general mood. Whether it's sunny or rainy may affect how ones character is feeling, after all. Or it can be used to set a contrast, if the mood of the character doesn't match the weather at all.

    Of course, starting out with: "It was a dark, stormy night" may be horribly cliché these days, but the principle is sound. If it is a dark and stormy night you might as well try to use that to the best of your ability.
     
  11. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Chapter 1 of the book I'm writing is in rainy weather.

    There's a reason. The weather affects the behavior of my characters.

    I also make a seemingly offhand reference to the rain flowing down the mountain "in an inexorable path toward the Sciotto River." To the reader, this should seem like descriptive writing. Later in the story, it becomes a significant detail.

    The writing is engaging enough that the reader isn't bored by these apparently minor details. I use the lightening and thunder to create a mood... but there's an underlying purpose later in the story for every detail I include.

    There's also a lot more going on than just the weather. My characters are deep in conversation, and the conversation isn't about the weather. The weather is described, but only in a few sentences interspersed with interesting dialogue. The setting is also described: a large, old house on a mountain, tucked away in a nest of trees and vines. Every detail becomes significant later in the story.

    Honestly, I can't imagine such a rule being taken seriously. "Never start a story in rainy weather"? Why not? I can't imagine a serious book about the art of writing including so arbitrary a rule. Sounds to me like saying, "Never start a story in a car" or "Everyone at the beginning of the story must be wearing ordinary pants -- no pajamas, no dresses and no formal wear."

    The story begins where it begins. If in a car, if during a rainstorm, if wearing pajamas, so be it!
     
  12. ArckAngel
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    ArckAngel Member

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    That sound perfectly fine to me. Weather can be important, if not vital to any story, as long as it affect's the main character. Rain can cause the main character to start running, and miss something because they were trying not to get wet, while if it were sunny out it would be in plain sight. It's as important as night and day.
     
  13. LunarPrincess
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    LunarPrincess New Member

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    I've never heard of this before! i don't usually start with the weather but i have. I thought it was best to describe all of the senses in this case
    "The serene weather outside reflected on my state; calm and gray with weariness. Tiny rain droplets fell against the car window. Pregnant clouds shaded the harshness of the sun it had been sprinkling on and off all day maintaining the daylight heavily curtained"
    should I change it?
     
  14. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't change it just because anyone who's dealt w/depression can totally relate to this. The weather, in this case, is an important element to what's happening with your MC. I just don't like an opening where someone discusses the weather without the MC being present and without it being relevant and interesting. [I'm not saying that that's the deal with Irish87's opening since I've never read it.]
     
  15. LunarPrincess
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    LunarPrincess New Member

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    okay thank you :) i was just concerned i definitely don't want my beginning to be construed as cliche
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that won't matter a whit to the reader, if your opening hasn't a good hook!
     
  17. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Irish, in the short story I just posted, I used the weather right in the opening to set the mood that there was a storm brewing ahead for my MC. But also, for those of us who live in cold weather places, we know how romantic snow storms can be, and getting snowed in, so it served two purposes in the story.

    I think if the weather is important, as your's sounds like it is, at the beginning of a story, then it should be used. But obviously not like the cliche someone mentioned, "It was a dark and stormy night." that sounds like the opening to the song Monster Mash. lol!!

    It sounds like you're fine, and your friend needs to find a clue about what he's talking about. That is meant in the nicest way though. :)
     
  18. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Irish, in the short story I just posted, I used the weather right in the opening to set the mood that there was a storm brewing ahead for my MC. But also, for those of us who live in cold weather places, we know how romantic snow storms can be, and getting snowed in, so it served two purposes in the story.

    I think if the weather is important, as your's sounds like it is, at the beginning of a story, then it should be used. But obviously not like the cliche someone mentioned, "It was a dark and stormy night." that sounds like the opening to the song Monster Mash. lol!!

    It sounds like you're fine, and your friend needs to find a clue about what he's talking about. That is meant in the nicest way though. :)
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Weather may be important for mood seting. It may also be a metaphor for what is going on in the lives of the characters. Look at Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, for example.

    I favor starting a story with a character rather than a detailed picture of the setting, but there are always exceptions. I think the notion of never beginning with the weather is one of those "rules" that should not be followed blindly. The purpose, I believe, is to encourage a writer to begin with a character in action rather than in description, but to me it's a poorly formulated rule.

    Or perhaps someone had the wrong idea about what makes people groan about "It was a dark and stormy night..."
     
  20. Ragnar
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    Ragnar Contributing Member

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    Already wrote was I was about to say and more. Probably wrote it better as well. Heed this advice ^^

    I'd just like to say that starting a story with describing the weather can work extremely well when it comes to setting the mood.
     
  21. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    You can describe it is raining after you pull the reader in. It can't be so important that it should be the first words.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Can't it?
     
  23. Sabih Omar
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    Bleak House by Charles Dickens starts with a one and half page long (in my penguin edition) description of "Implacable November Weather", especially the fog. And I think it was good.

    I am a man from the land of Kalidas. I'll buy your book only to read that rain part :D
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a good writer can make anything work well as an opening!
     
  25. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    Weather is a common human denominator. It effects us all- poor, rich, tall and short we all are at its mercy.

    Maybe it is a good way to start.
     

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