Saturday, April 27, 2019

Season of Our Discontent or Maybe our Content

Does the season ever play a part in your setting? How do you think seasons affect setting & plot either physically or metaphorically?

Ah, yes, seasons.  In my writing it is always summer, my favorite season.  Only my first book was set in the fall and it had many issues and is stuck forever in the hard drive of my computer.

I never meant to write The Shadow Warriors, World of Mirrors, Festival Madness, The Meth House, and (scheduled for publication) Chased by Death and Murder in the North Woods to be set in summer.  An as yet unpublished novel (not a mystery) is set in 1928 Southern California.  In summer, of course. My WIP (work in process) is set in two periods in South Central Kansas.  Both periods take place during the wheat harvest, which is __summer.

How did all these summer books transpire? I have loved summer since I was a little kid.  No walking to school during snowstorms in summer.  No snowstorms in summer!  This winter we were both snowed in and iced in.  New England winters are awful.  Did I ever like winter sports?  No.  Swimming and tennis are summer sports.  Kick the can on a hot summer evening.  Riding bikes to the Platte River.  Swimming in the sand pit (a no-no).  Always summertime activities.

So how does summer as a season function in my books?  Let's take World of Mirrors, set in East Germany the year after the wall came down.  In the Baltic, where the novel takes place, the sun doesn't set until late.  The sailboats ply the waters off the island.  Tourists and locals crowd the nude beaches.  The little train takes visitors around the island.  My characters are posing as tourists, so they do touristy things.  Summer helps create their disguise.

The isle of Ruegen is peaceful in any season.  But the bad guys are there in summer.
Festival Madness is set at Burning Man which takes place the week before Labor Day.  Summer!  That was a no brainer.  The hot desert functions as a backdrop for a bad guy intent on mayhem. Half-naked people.  People in costumes.  Craziness.  Who can you trust?  In winter the Black Rock Desert is deserted. That wouldn't be any fun. The festival is a phantasmogoric scene of heat, dust, techno, costumes, art, craziness.  A perfect place for a novel.  A summer novel.

When the man burns, the summer sky is lit with flames and fireworks.

 My most recent publication is a novelette, The Meth House. What inspired the story was a news item about homeless people living off the grid in a national forest in Colorado.  Someone accidentally set a fire that burned a forest.  I didn't write about the fire, rather I wrote about an older woman who delivered food to the homeless from her church.  Naturally nobody would be living in a forest in the mountains in the winter.  Well, maybe rangers.   She is delivering food and other items and runs across an old cabin that someone says used to be a meth house.  She finds a child in the cabin and then the fun begins.  Estes Park, a summer resort figures in the story as does a trip to the hot plains of Northeastern Colorado where a meth house blows up and many further adventures insue.  In the good old summertime.

We associate memories and activities with all four seasons.  Summer is warm (maybe hot) with beaches, swimming, cookouts, rafting, mountain cabins, harvests, travel, picnics, long days and fun. But it's not all fun.  Bad stuff happens in any season.  In my books, bad stuff happens in summer.

Here are some good writers who will have a different take on the seasons and their writing.

   Skye Taylor
  Victoria Chatham
  Diane Bator
   Beverley Bateman
  Connie Vines
  Helena Fairfax
  Rhobin L Courtright


  1. Judith, you would really like Western Australia. Their tourist trap slogan is that it's always summer there.
    Personally, I like some variation.

  2. Bad stuff indeed! Summer is a great setting, though, wild and crazy even when bad stuff happens.

  3. authors often say that the weather or the setting is another character, but as you so well illustrate, so is the season.

  4. You are correct in that bad stuff can happen in any season. Spring floods, summer wildfires, heavy fog in the fall, blizzards in winter. They can all contrive to add conflict and tension in a story.

  5. Great examples of why you'd use summer in your books. You've got me convinced. Beverley

  6. Summer and tourist attractions, every reader can relate, and make that connection with your character(s).


Your comments are always welcome!