Friday, June 21, 2019

Writing: Starting With The Weather

Too many writers read various "rules," and try to make their writing conform to it. I'm thinking now of the "rules" of  Elmore Leonard, starting with this one: "Don't start a book with the weather." That may be good advice in most cases, but let me remind you that Madilyn L'Engle started her award-winning novel, A Wrinkle In Time, with the often-quoted line (frequently the subject of many jokes), "It was a dark and stormy night." I honestly don't know whether L'Engle just didn't care, or simply chose it because it worked. In either case, I have to say she came out ahead.

Would I start a novel with something about the weather? I might--if it worked into the plot and set the scene. But I'd try to make it something that would encourage the reader to keep going past the first paragraph or first page. Let me give you an example. Would you keep reading a novel that began in this way?

He switched the windshield wipers from intermittent to slow to fast as the rain grew steadily worse and sky darkened until his field of vision was confined to what was illuminated by his headlights. Parker strained to avoid missing his turn-off as he guided the car toward the Cutter mansion. He spared a glance at the dashboard clock. He was cutting it awfully thin, and he knew Cutter would be angry if he was late. Perhaps the weather was an omen of what was coming. But, good or bad, he needed to make the meeting. Whatever came after that... Well, he'd just see.

I not only started with the weather. I incorporated the rainstorm and darkening skies into the plot. We don't know what's around the bend, but it sounds bad.

So, what do you think?



Sounds spooky and suspenseful Perhaps, an overturned car or a deer hit by traitor-trailer; Perhaps, an avalanche; or simply, a sinkhole.

Priscilla Bettis said...

Yes, I'd keep reading past that opening because the weather is an adversary. Parker wants to get to the mansion on time, but the darn weather is slowing him down.

Snoopy also started many novels with, "It was a dark and stormy night.":-)

Betti said...

That just made me want to read more...:)

Patricia Bradley said...

Good job of hooking the reader, Richard! I'd definitely keep reading. Like Priscilla said, the weather here is an adversary.

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks for all of you for your comments and nice words. I just wanted to show how you can start a novel with weather if it helps set the scene. (But maybe I should use that for the opening of my next work--we'll see).