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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Marking the Seasons

Living in Southern California all my life, the seasons are a relative thing. When people would say So Cal doesn't have seasons, I would beg to differ. We have summer, then fire, then rain, then mudslides. Those are our seasons. But now that I live in the mountains in what is called a "Four-Season Resort" I know what real seasons are like. While it's only two hours from downtown Los Angeles, Big Bear Valley might as well be a world away. We actually have a winter here...with real snow, sometimes four feet of real snow. Spring takes on a new meaning when the landscape has been covered in white since December and you see that first bud on a tree or the first tulip bulb breaking through the dirt.

Even when I lived "down the hill" seasons and their marking of time, was important to me. It wasn't until I saw this month's theme of "Marking the Seasons" did it really dawn on me how much I use the changing of the seasons in my novels. Using the sights, sounds and aromas of a particular time of year is a great way to tap into your reader's memories relieving you of the responsibility of overly describing every detail in a scene. A crispness in the air and a leaf floating down and catching in your heroine's long hair tells your reader it's fall. Barren trees, the crunch of ice under her leather boots, her nose and cheeks burning from the cold, tell your readers it's winter.

I also use the seasons to move the story along with action happening around the holidays in many of my books. While a number of books and movies will center around a single holiday such as what happened at Christmas or on New Year's Eve, I prefer writing longer tales that span a year or even two, which means I can use the holidays as part of my stories. For example, if one character grew up as an only child while the other had seven brothers, their experience of Christmas is bound to be different. This difference can lead to conflict between my characters or provide a place where the characters grow by being exposed to a new experience.

Have you used the seasons or holidays in your books as a way of moving the story along? What was your favorite seasonal scene?

4 comments:

Paty Jager said...

Christie, I have used seasons in several of my books to help ground or set the story or scene. I agree by using things readers already know you don't have to go into great detail and they can feel a part of the story. Good post!

Not experiencing snow until this time in your life. You were gypped. As a kid we had 4-5 feet of snow most winters and built snow forts and tunnels, had to wear snow shoes to get our Christmas trees. Where I live now gets hardly any snow but I like that as an adult.

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Christie,

I haven't thought of my stories in terms of 'seasons' but in some ways I do. The first of my seven starts in October and each subsequent book starts where the previous one left off and while not particularly focused on seasons, I do showcase holidays usually from a pagan perspective for example Samhain/Halloween.

I do bring some of my memories of holidays and seasonal weather into my stories. Those moments of remembering certain events are highlights of my own writing day.

Christie Walker Bos said...

Thanks for the comments. I always love hearing other people's perspective, especially on something we take for granted like the seasons.

To Paty...While I didn't live in snow, my parents drove us up to the mountains for a snow day and we often rented a cabin in the mountains for Christmas. Not the same as growing up with snow, but I didn't feel gyped.

Sarah Raplee said...

I used the Fourth of July to kick off my Romantic Suspense that I'm shopping around. Summer in Iowa is a very magical time that fills the senses - think fireflies and thunderstorms, plus lush vegetation. The season definitely enhances the story.

Did you know that in winter, it can get so cold in Northern Iowa that you can throw a cup of hot water in the air and it falls down as snow? (There are videos of this on You Tube!)