How difficult do you find it to write about spring when there is snow 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.
Case in point—I remember writing Eclipse Lake, a book set at a summer resort, to the symphony of a winter 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 actually hear the crickets and tree frogs I mentioned in my story. To smell the unique mixture of lake water and boat fuel permeating the novel’s marina, or even feel the brush of wind as it races across the meadow where my hero and heroine meet. Instead, I was 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. I’m getting ready to start book 2 of my Hode’s Hill Mystery Series, and plan on setting it in the fall. Book 1, by no surprise, was set in early June.
I’ve only used winter as a time frame once and that was for a Christmas novella, Food for Poe.
As a season, winter gets a bad rap. Sure, there are strange—kidding!—people who love it, and 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, though I’d just as soon skip it or limit it to the month of December.
But here’s a shocker—as much as I don’t like to write stories set during 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 and bewitches.
What is your take on seasonal writing and settings? Do you find yourself using the same season in most of your books? Is it hard to write about summer while experiencing winter and vice versa? Do you enjoy reading books set during a particular time of year, or are you a gal/guy for all seasons? Let’s get some discussion going in the comments!