Friday, March 29, 2013

Forgotten Characters...

Hello everybody!

Sorry, I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’ve been working on my manuscript—“Betrayal in the Highlands” (due out in August! *PLUG! PLUG! PLUG!*).

I’ve also been reading.

As I wrote previously, I’m trying to read more so that I can become a better writer.  I want to read not only the brilliant and the good books (to see what works), but also the “not so good” books (to see what, in my opinion, doesn’t work).  Again, we as writers can learn from everybody.

One of the books I’ve been reading seems to be falling into the second category.  It isn’t that it’s horrible. The characters are fine. The story is fine. The writing is fine…except for one thing.

Every time the writer describes the weather, it’s “bright and sunny” or the stars are “blazing in the blackness.”  And so forth. 

Now, being trapped in northeastern Ohio throughout the winter, I can appreciate nice weather.  Believe me, I’m DYING to see the sun!  But I imagine that even beautiful, sunny days wear a bit thin when they happen all the time.   I’m starting to realize how that applies to writing as well.

If I were to say that writers need to create diverse characters, you’d probably agree with me.  After all, even twins have different personalities.  And nobody wants to read a story where everybody acts and thinks and talks the same. 


The same is true for the environment or setting of the story. 

I think stories hit a rut when all the lands are beautiful and fair or have rolling hills of green wavy grass.  That’s wonderful for a scene or two. But after a while, I want to see trees. I want to see mountains. I even want to see barren wastelands.  In many ways, a forest of dead trees could be just as emotion-provoking as a forest with leaves of copper and gold.


Which gets me to the issue with the weather in the book I’m reading. 

Because the sun is always bright and the sky is always blue, the writer’s world feels forced and contrived to me. It also seems flat.  Doesn’t it rain at all???? How do the fields of wavy grass stay green without rain???  Seriously, I’ve been following these characters for several months of their lives and not once has it rained or hailed or snowed or had nasty gusts of wind that burn the characters’ cheeks. 


As an aspiring writer, I’m trying to think of the setting and the climate as characters in and of themselves, characters with different moods and personalities.

This is particularly challenging for me since my manuscript occurs during the winter in the far north— where there’s nothing but snow, snow, and more snow.  I’m trying to add variety to a climate that is dominated by white and cold.  But even snow can be beautiful and angry and peaceful and spiteful. And even in the dead of winter a little sun must break through the grayness.

I should thank the writer of the book I’m reading.  He taught me a valuable lesson that I couldn’t have learned from the brilliant books.  Now if I can just apply that lesson to my own work….


  1. Heh, partway through my fantasy novel the rains come and don't stop for weeks, a once in a century storm that turns the army's slog towards battle into a quagmire nightmare!

    1. See, I think that's great! The rain becomes a constant character who has an impact on the outcome of the story. Not everyday is bright and sunny!

  2. This is so true. A lot can be learned from the "not so good" books. I know I've discovered a lot about my own writing by analyzing the writings of others, and even the earlier writings I have done. I recently read a manuscript I wrote a decade ago and it has shown me just how much I have learned and developed as a writer. I still enjoy the overall plot, so now I've decided to do a complete re-write on the manuscript and see what happens.

    Also, on a completely unrelated note, I finally found myself a job, and as I said/promised before, I just went to my NOOK store and purchased a copy of Riddle in Stone. It will be nice to read it again. :) I can't wait to read Betrayal in the Highlands.

    1. Hey Danielle!!!

      Sorry for the delay. I've been out of the country for a bit. Congrats on the job (what are you doing?) and thanks for buying Riddle in Stone!!!

      Betrayal should be out in August. So fingers crossed!

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. A great post, Robert!

    Weather can set the stage for different scenes and if you think of it as a character in the story, you can consider that it has different moods, just like a person.

    It can be warm and sweet, caressing your skin one minute and then become angry and boisterous, thundering down with emotional outbursts the next.

    I quite enjoyed the way you did this with your mountainous forest setting in Riddle In Stone, btw! Well done, my friend! Yes, I did notice. ;-)

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Janie. Sorry for the delay in responding. I've been out of the country for a bit.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the setting in Riddle in Stone. Personally, I think describing terrain is very difficult to do without it sounding like an info dump.

      It'll be even harder in the third book since Edmund stays more or less in the same region. I don't want to bore readers by talking about the hills and forests all the time.

  4. Very true! My husband always comments on how Tolkien made his Middle Earth so much like a separate character, so diverse and beautifully laid out, that it was difficult to leave this "character" once the book was through.

    1. Kimberly!!!

      Yes, Tolkien really was the master at creating lands with their own feel and character. The Shire is a wonderful example, as is favorite. It's like you're there and can look around for yourself...which is of course the mark of a brilliant writer.