Monday, January 31, 2011

Keep Your Tongue Off That Flagpole

The past 3-4 days the afternoon temperature in San Antonio has been 80F, plus or minus a degree or two. And it will be there again today. Can spring be far behind?

Yes. It's but a mere speck in the rearview mirror.

Tomorrow winter will kick our butts and make us cry for our mamas. We're supposed to have nights around 20 and days with highs only in the 30's most of the week.

Those of you who live in an M-state like Michigan and Minnesota and Maine and Montana probably don't think this sounds too bad. But for us warm-weather types, it's darn chilly.

I'm not complaining, because I really don't mind a little cold weather every now and then. What I am doing is using our weather to make a point.

Think pacing and plotting.

Your protagonist is floating along nicely in an warm blur. Wham! In blows what Texans call a Blue Norther. That means it's gonna get colder than a frozen flagpole. This would amount to a whole heap of trouble for your protagonist.

Once it gets cold, it's going to stay cold. It will warm up just enough to laugh in your face during the day, the sun will shine, and maybe your protagonist believes things are looking up. Except the next night is even colder than the first one.

Uh-oh.

At the end of the week - the end of your story - the weather warms up again. Your protagonist is smiling, and all is right with her world.

So the next time you sit down to plot your story - or for pantsers, the next time things get to a standstill - check the weather forecast.

Sunny and warm makes the writer smile. But your protagonist needs a series of squalls and storms to keep readers happy.

Happy readers rock!

35 comments:

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Wow! 80 degrees! That's summer for us West Virginians.(: The weather hovered around the 40's and 50's last weekend and I thought we had a heat wave.(:
Also, good comparison with the weather and writing.

Joanne said...

80F? That's it. I'm sending out an SOS. Tomorrow we're getting 4-8 inches of snow, but the "storm" comes Wednesday ... Snow, sleet, freezing rain and ice, on top of the 2 feet of snow already on the ground. We're getting clobbered :/

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Another great analogy. In SW Florida we complain when the temperatures don’t reach 70, so I would probably need to check the weather for one of the M states instead. Stay warm.

VR Barkowski said...

The perfect simile! Who pays attention to the weather when it's the same day in and day out? We're glued to the forecast when we've no idea what's going to happen next, same with a story. But good grief, these temp ups and downs are wearing me out!

Stephen Tremp said...

I benefit from two settings, a NorEaster in Boston in February and the sunny weather of Southern California. Its fun to get characters out of their comfort zone an challenge them with those Whams!

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm only two hours South of the Texas border and I think we have the same weather. Yeah, we're getting extreme cold over the next few days which will be hard because we've had great weather so far.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think my book started off in the 40's...
And cool - A Christmas Story reference! Yeah, keep the tongue away from frozen flagpoles.

Carol Kilgore said...

Andrea - I was comfy in shorts and flip-flops. And I thought about turning on the AC yesterday afternoon.

Joanne - This morning the weather said we may get a winter mix on Friday.

Jane - You can do that on weather.com :) Stay cool!

VR - I know that feeling.

Stephen - Exactly!

Clarissa - That's when it's really hard, when it comes after great weather. It's not quite so bad if it's led into gradually.

Carol Kilgore said...

Alex - I love A Christmas Story!

Lydia K said...

Lovely metaphor for our characters! Stay warm, Carol!

Arlee Bird said...

AS that cold weather sweeps across the U.S. I hear warmer weather will be moving into in the Los Angeles area. Though we did have a nice few hours of rain yesterday. A good rainstorm always works well for story settings.

Lee
Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

Mason Canyon said...

I love the analogy. But weather-wise I can see what's in store for us next. We usually get your weather in 2 to 3 days. Not that we've had the 80s, but we have had some upper 60s. So I know the cold is coming back.:(

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Carol Kilgore said...

Lydia - I'll have to put on socks. Maybe even shoes. Inside!

Arlee - I love warm sunny days.

Mason - Stock up on firewood and hot chocolate :)

Maryann Miller said...

It's amazing how serendipity or the muse or the shared creativity will bring me to your blog when I can really connect with the subject. I did some rewrites this morning that blew in some winter wind on scenes that were too warm. I had looked at them for days thinking they were so, ho-hum, and realized early this AM what needed to be done. Bring on a storm. LOL

I'm bracing for the cold spell here, too. Was planting my garden yesterday while temps were in the 70s.

Holly Ruggiero said...

Great point (even though those of us in the teens and twenties read this post through squinted eyes.) It’s a great way to mix things up for your character.

Laura Eno said...

Great analogy and your title is a real stopper!

Hannah Kincade said...

teehee! Awesome. I love it. I like to put my characters through the seasonal hell I experience.

It's been snowing since 3 this morning here and won't stop until well after sundown. Huzzah!

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Weather is a great way to stir things up - a sudden downpour can flood roads or make a roof leak during a romantic moment (how can you tell I love comedy), snowstorms can force people to meet those they never would, while a hot day can make people cranky and sweaty.

Keep warm Carol! But thanks for sharing the news about your 80 degree weather. I'm not bitter at all.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Nice analogy! And...I think I'm ready for spring. :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Maryann - Good for you. Your poor plants will freeze tomorrow.

Holly - Sorry about that...LOL!

Laura - Got your attention, though :)

Hannah - Bundle up and build a snowman. Or cuddle by the fire. Which would I choose!

Elspeth - It's so gorgeous now I can't believe my tush will be frozen for a while starting tomorrow.

Elizabeth - Thanks. I am ready for sure. It's supposed to arrive by the end of January, right - LOL.

Glynis Jolly said...

Carol,
I think there are quite a few like that although, I seem to be the opposite. When it's gorgeous outside I want to go play and enjoy the sunshine. January and February are my most productive months not only at the keyboard but as far as housework goes too.

Kathy McIntosh said...

Great analogy as long as you don't start with "It was a dark and stormy night!" :)
Wish I were there, although the sun came out today, hurrah.

Marie Rearden said...

Nice tie-in to the weather.

I'm in Ohio, not an 'M' state, but still darn cold. If I had to compare, my heroine is in choppy water with a beautiful sunset every once in a while.

But the sharks are circling...

Very good post!

Marie, http://marierearden.blogspot.com

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

Forget writing for a moment. I wish my body was wrapped around a frozen flagpole. It's hot here!

Good post :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Glynis - The only time I have a real problem with that are those first warm spring days. That's why they make laptops and books and ereaders :)

Kathy - I agree.

Marie - Nice to see you at the Tiki Hut. Feel free to comment any time. Thanks for following, too.

Wendy - We get hot summers like that in Texas, too.

The Words Crafter said...

If it would stay 80 degrees, I'd love summer. I can't imagine it in January, though, wow!

Love the analogy and great advice.

Carol Kilgore said...

Words Crafter - 80 is wonderful.

Hart Johnson said...

M-state, reporting in. 17 degrees and we are expecting 10-15 inches of snow tonight. (biggest single snowfall since I moved here 10 years ago). We won't waffle between 80 and 20 until April when we get our 4 hours of spring.

Interesting to think about places and thei weather and their genres... i wonder if this is why the south has so many romance writers... though I know some mystery writers too... and paranormal..., but yeah... pretty bleak and hopeless for our heroine in Michigan... it's gunna be MONTHS before she is happy again.

Carol Kilgore said...

Hart - It's supposed to drop to 17 here tonight. Possibility of light snow Thursday. Mystery and romance for me. Texas is big enough for both :)

Talli Roland said...

Keep your tongue safe, Carol! :) I love how you've brought weather around to writing novels.

LR said...

I think there's a blue norther where I am too (sigh!). So freaking cold.

irishoma said...

Hi Carol,
Hello from another M-state--Missouri, where we've had sleet, snow, and freezing rain today.

Your example of weather and pacing is an eye opener.

Stay warm,
Donna V.
http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com

Carol Kilgore said...

Talli - Of course! It's very important :)

LR - It's 5:30 here, the sun is still blazing, and it's 30F. Tonight will be freaking cold here, too.

Donna - Good! No siestas Under the Tiki Hut - LOL.

Jan Morrison said...

You Texans are hilarious! Ah well, tomorrow we're getting a blizzard. 25 to 30 centimetres of the white stuff - I've cancelled my clients and will buckle down to a good deal of writing. I may be poor but I'm poor is how I look at it. I'm moving to your neck of the woods. I swear I am. It's minus 11 here tonight and that is pretty darn good. My brother lives in Yellow Knife (that's way up north) It was -35 last time I talked to him. Now that is celcius but I don't think it makes much difference at a certain point - let me go make the translation....-11 is 12 degrees farenheit, -35 is -31. Hmmm...
Great point in terms of plot movement and pace. I just couldn't get over the content and into the process for a moment. Let's call it EXTREME envy.

Carol Kilgore said...

Jan - Actual converted numbers. Monday afternoon about 5pm it was 27C here. Tuesday morning about 10am it was 1C. Right now about 10pm our actual temp is -4C and the wind chill is -12. This according to the NOAA online converter. Supposed to be 15C by the weekend. Come on down!