Do your stories and worlds reference seasons and do they play into the plots of your books?
Seasons provide important time elements to a story’s plot. The environment in which characters interact is significant in setting the tone and helping readers keep track of how much time has passed between plot points.
Time passage within a novel can be large (days, months, and years) or small (a few moments or minutes), and all of it can affect the story’s pacing, grabbing readers’ attention or losing it. A lot of my novels involve events requiring longs periods of time to pass from the book’s beginning to the end.
A surprise pregnancy is one of my favorite romance tropes. Ah, heck, I like a pregnancy in almost every plot. I always enjoy the part of the story when the protagonists discover that a bundle of joy is on the way. Yeah, it’s corny, but I can’t get enough of it. Don’t judge me.
Anyway, I have a lot of pregnancies in my stories, requiring the plot to unfold in a year or more. Seasons allow me to anchor readers on a timeline without too many confining details. I usually avoid using concrete time. I do not want to constrain readers’ imaginations with the mundane. So, I usually won’t include time on a clock, names of days or months. Unlike restrictive time details, seasons offer broader parameters to navigate.
In My Way to You, Simon and Regina’s relationship starts in winter, heating up while spring and summer approach and they continue to date. I used seasons as a backdrop for the time that passes as they get closer and fall in love.
Touching the Senses
Seasons also give authors a chance to pull readers into the story through the sensory connections they make. I was born and raised in the North East US.
Seasons infuse my emotions, each stimulating a range of feelings. When writing, I try to tap similar connections between seasons and emotions in my readers.
Seasons influence our moods. Venturing outdoors in spring after a winter cooped up can uplift, and the change in daylight patterns in the fall can cause depression. Infusing the environment into the plot is an effective way to reinforce the story and its characters for readers.
The soon-to-be-released Sweet Love, Bitter Fruit opens with the main character Toni Kent lounging by the pool soaking up some summer sun:
Toni sighed and wiped beads of sweat from her forehead as the Long Island sunshine dried her damp swimsuit. Sounds from the usual bustle in her in-law’s large home floated around her. It was this way whenever her husband and sister-in-law visited their parents—each with families in tow. Chatter drifted out of the kitchen’s French doors and mingled with splashing from the sizeable in-ground pool she lounged beside. Booming laughter drifted over from the bar. She turned her head. Her husband, Marcus leaned back in his stool, his bare muscular chest heaving from his guffaws. He glanced at her and offered a wink before pressing a beer bottle to his full brown lips. He turned to his father standing on the other side and continued to talk. It was good to see him relaxed. Being around his family always brought out the best in him.
In a few sentences, readers connect to the summer warmth and fun the characters enjoy. It doesn’t last, but that is another thing. Toni and Marcus are chilling with their family in a typical seasonal setting to which many readers can relate.
Seasons and weather are critical tools, allowing authors to show and not tell about characters’ mood. In the above excerpt, readers can infer Toni’s relaxed and content state without being told.
There are pitfalls to writing seasons and weather such as telling (i.e., it was raining) and using clichés (i.e., the snow fell, coating the countryside), so learning how to give readers good descriptions can be a challenge—every author slips sometimes—but worth it.