Friday, December 25, 2009

Characters--many dimensions

Writers know we must make our characters multi-dimensional with good, bad, and unusual traits. We must make them jump off the page and keep readers turning the page. Usually, though, characters bring to immediate mind humans. Sometimes animals.

I often use horses and dogs in my writings. They are characters just as real as their human counterparts.

This past Christmas week my son and his family have been visiting from Virginia. On the way here they were stuck/trapped in a blizzard for almost 24 hours. I worried. I paced. I cried. And, I kept the phone line alive. They made it safely home.

Last night I lay beside my beautiful two year old granddaughter and watched her sleep. Snow blew outside the window. My dream of a white Christmas was granted, but it was accompanied by worry as she would be leaving the next morning. Back in the snow. Not a blizzard this time, just snow requiring careful driving by her daddy.

Weather can be a viable character for writers. We make lightning flash, thunder roll, humidity melt, heat swelter, flood waters rise and recede, snow cause white-outs, and wind howl. Other weather related actions move our characters in and out of harm's way or into new regions. Weather is active or causes action. We mustn't negate its importance in our work.

My current work in progress takes place along the Oregon Trail in 1845. The emigrants faced challenges of many sorts along the way, but weather and nature became their greatest foes.

I first became actively aware of the importance of weather as a character attending my first meeting of the Red River Romance Writer's Group in Wichita Falls, Texas. Sharon Sala, multi-published romance author, served as the guest speaker that day. She taught much, but I particulary recall her mention of using weather as character.

That day led to Ms. Sala becoming one of my favorite authors. She uses weather, setting extremes and other natural gifts to enhance her novels.

So, writer family, don't forget weather in your writing. Use it for more than to establish setting. It is a powerful tool.

Happy writing to all.


Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Wonderful advice and so true!

Moonine Sue Watson said...

This is a nice blog. I'm glad you are returning to your writing in spite of the hectic life you've had recently.

Sue Watson

Julia Mozingo said...

Thanks for sharing. I needed an extra injection of characterization. We're so looking forward to you returning to the RRRW meetings.

Tony Burton said...


I agree about the weather, and it's one of the things I always teach my creative writing students. I hold up "To Build a Fire" by Jack London as the ultimate example of using weather as a character in a story. Keep up the writing, Nona!


Anonymous said...

Great post! We're definitely getting a reminder that weather is a character this holiday season!

Mindy Blanchard said...

I've always loved Sharon Sala's stories and I know exactly what u mean. such true advise. We do tend to forget the limitless qualities available to us in our writing in terms of animals/weather/other such items. I can't wait to read on in Rebecca's tale....hugs

...paul said...

Good advice Winona. I'm currently re-reading Jean M Auel's Earth's Children series - for the umpteenth time of enjoyment - and there are times in them where the weather is a tremendous character.

Jess said...

I was a huge S.Sala fan years ago. I need to 'revisit' her. Go back to Red River RWA, and get involved -- there's really no group better than an RWA group. You'll learn a lot. And come visit us!