Tag Archives: Sex and the City

It’s the Time of the Season: How Weather Affects Our Stories

I can remember a lazy afternoon a few years back in my old apartment; I had just finished watching The Sex and the City movie (part I) when I did something I don’t normally do—clicked on the DVD’s bonus features. For whatever reason, I decided to watch the entire movie again while listening to the director’s, Michael Patrick King, commentary. What really struck me was his use of the changing seasons to move the plot along. I’ll paraphrase here, and you don’t have to be a regular SATC viewer to understand the point.

In the beginning, when Mr. Big leaves Carrie on the proverbial altar it is autumn. I remember the characters discussing a September wedding. Simultaneously, we discover that Steve committed adultery, and while it’s obvious that he is deeply sorry, Miranda stubbornly refuses to make amends and begins to plan her new life as a single woman.

Throughout the cold, blistery winter that follows it is clear that Carrie has fallen into a deep depression. The director even shows how she dyes her black—as if to reflect her emotional state. Miranda too, seems to be barely pulling by, and the tensions lead to a big blow out between the two women on Valentine’s Day.

Then spring comes. Carrie has pulled herself up from her own fiery depths and changes her hair back to its normal, lighter color. Miranda and Steve make plans to meet on the Brooklyn Bridge to attempt reconciliation. I can remember the scene where Carrie and Miranda are walking through Central Park—spring has exploded. The trees are full of plump blossoms, petals float through air, and the grass is green with the vitality. Carrie and Miranda have a new way about them—the fog has lifted. The hard times are over.

When I look back at my life, I see that my wildest, craziest memories were during summer. My darkest periods were during winter. My sense of hope was strongest during spring, and my most prevalent transitioning periods were during autumn.

So I got to thinking…how does the use of the four seasons enhance or reflect plot, setting, and characterization in fiction? As a literature major in college I learned that the seasons often stand as metaphors for the following concepts:

The Four Seasons. From questgarden.com

Spring: Conception

Summer: Life

Autumn: Old Age

Winter: Death

That being said, how can we utilize this in our writing?

Spring: This is classically a season of new beginnings, of hope. Perhaps, for one of your characters it is the end of a depressing period (like old Carrie Bradshaw’s). It is a good time for decision making—a good time to fall in love. The mood of spring is renewed energy. What kinds of situations might your characters go through in the springtime? Spring may also be the perfect season for a happy ending—sort of like a restored sense of faith that all is well.

Then again, it might be fun to try and contrast the growing beauty of a spring setting with a struggling character, or an overblown conflict.

Summer: The season of heated romances, vacations, and an overall sense of freedom. While we’re all adults now and often work through summers, but the notion of June through August being a carefree period will never completely fade—it’s morphed into our psyches and it will certainly come across in literature. This is a great season to use if your main characters are teenagers or college students. Summer is an archetypal time for experimenting, doing crazy things, falling in love, and finding ourselves.

On the other hand, summer can come with a good dose of dread. I always think of The Secret Life of Bees where Lily Owens fears what will come with summer’s end, as she may be forced to leave the home of the Boatwright sisters. The truth is, we all wonder how things will change when summer is over Hey, even Don Henley wonders. “Boys of Summer” anyone?

Autumn: This is a beautiful, but often melancholy season. It’s a time where we cling to the past, (again, shut up Don Henley!) or a more favorable time. Vacation is over; reality has returned. In that way, it is a very practical season. Perhaps in a work of a fiction autumn is where certain events unfold that will lead to a period of mourning. A character grows ill, and his deteriorating body juxtaposes the changing, falling leaves.

On brighter, happier note, autumn is a great time to “turn over a new leaf,” and in some cases, it takes on characteristics of spring in the sense that something new is beginning such as, school, college, etc. Plus, you could always milk that whole concept of the harvest.

Winter: For anyone suffering from SAD, this one is obvious. Winter is a phase of harder times. It’s more difficult for the weak, weary, hungry, and war torn. It is fitting to portray a character going through a depressive state in winter (after all, he can always rise up come spring). Perhaps a character who has been jilted, become unemployed, lost a family member, or finalized a divorce could suffer a tormenting winter. He could be on a post-holiday crisis, a period of uncertainly, stagnancy, and hopelessness. Having a winter season in the background for something like this will always be fitting.

Winter is also a hibernation period. Maybe  a mad-scientist type character works on his experiment like crazy during the winter, all holed up in his study only to reveal his masterpiece when the weather begins to turn. Which by the way I believe was the exact scenario in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I do remember a lot of vivid winter imagery in that novel.

This is not to say that a writer MUST make use of the seasons to accurately reflect plot, setting, and characterization. Sometimes it will happen naturally—I’ve noticed that a lot of what I described above indirectly occurs in my own novel. However, I do think seasonal consideration should be applied. As writers we can certainly mindful of this technique. What’s happening in the background at any given time is important. And hey, so is weather. Otherwise we wouldn’t talk about it so much!

Do the four seasons play a role in your writing?

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Filed under Books and Literature, Characters, Description, Plot & Structure, Prompts & Writing Ideas, The Setting, The Writing Life, Writing Process, Writing Tips

Love Connection: Writing about romantic relationships in fiction

For centuries the world’s great stories have been built on romance. Petrarch wrote love poems for Laura. Romeo and Juliet defied and sacrificed to be together. Hell, the Greek Gods swapped partners more often than the cast of Beverly Hills 90210. Today’s realm of pop culture isn’t much different: Rachel and Ross’s dalliances kept us engaged through ten seasons. We swooned when, after years of torment, Mr. Big flew to Paris to claim his Carrie Bradshaw. And the movies? Forget it. Even the action hero has a love interest.

So we like falling in love. We like watching others fall in love. As bookish types, we like reading about love. And (drumroll, please) us scribes? We dig writing about love.

Rachael Towne → in Textures

It’s no big mystery. Writing about romantic relationships evokes feelings of our own. It can actually be a vicarious experience.When two of my protagonists hit it off, I get tingly inside; I ache, I yearn.  I know it’s serious when I find myself fantasizing about my own characters (don’t tell anyone). But that’s the effect it has. Writers are the luckiest people in the world: we get to fall in love over and over again.

Like most elements of fiction writing, the Love Connection can be a tricky endeavor. In romance novels there is often a formula to follow. From what I understand, at the end, despite all obstacles, the couple lives happily ever after. But perfecting the art of dangerous liaisons is not the sole job of the romance writer.  I consider my work ‘literary with a commercial bent,’ and regardless of genre, the passion needs to sizzle.

It’s all about pacing; the Love Connection must begin, develop, and (perhaps) end, at an optimal speed.

Here’s a quick guide to the process:

The Initial Meeting:

Whether its new love, old love, or love turned sour, every fictional couple should have a story. I listened to a webinar recently where speaker, Jerry B. Jenkins, discussed ‘situational clichés.’ He used the example of two characters literally “bumping into each other.” He suggested ‘finding more creative ways for characters to meet.’ Concerning the Love Connection, this is absolute truth. Tony and Maria from West Side Story also come to mind: two strangers lock eyes across the room, the backdrop becomes blurry, the sounds fade out…ick. It worked for the Jets and the Sharks, but for your novel, you may want to take Jenkins’s advice. There are countless ways to demonstrate the Love Connection. Go for something that’s never been done before.

The Exchange:

A few years ago I attempted to write a novel about two twenty-somethings who meet and fall in love. There were countless issues concerning the writing (i.e. zero backstory, vague setting, etc.) but one element I did nail was the exchange between my characters, Eddie and Ellie. My writing group loved the flirtatious banter, the suggestive gestures, and the obvious sexual tension. I was starting to think that they were falling in love with Eddie and Ellie as much as Eddie and Ellie were falling for each other. But after several weeks they started asking questions like, “When are they going to kiss? Have sex? Touch each other?” Then it hit me: I wasn’t going beyond the exchange. If they kiss, then they reach a new level. And I was lost at how to handle that.

The Outcome:

Just as in life, the literary romance will take some tumbles. The world that looked so shiny and new has returned to its regular dull hues, and now the sands of time are being tested. This is the hard part. But it’s also the most important part. It’s the bonding, the reckoning, and the agonizing. I feared for Eddie and Ellie in this stage. Would they make it? Lose their spark? I kept the witty repartee rolling because I didn’t want to find out. Hence, I never finished the novel.

Literary love comes in all shapes and sizes. Some are ongoing, some are ending, some are unrequited, and yet others are inevitable. Capturing love the right way can do wonders for your book. It can encourage someone to take to take the plunge, get engaged, or leave an unhappy marriage. But one thing I know for sure? As long as we live, read, and write, we most certainly will love.

Do your characters fall in love? Tell me about it.

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Filed under Characters, Plot & Structure, Writing Details, Writing Process, Writing Tips