A place for weather or whether a place …

 Random thoughts about the place for weather …

In this fast-paced, brave new world of publishing, it is said that we must not linger overly much on long, boring descriptions of people, places, things, the weather, the climate, the setting or whether to put it in its place.

What to do about those long prose you fashioned with such abandon? Can you stand the thought that an editor might slash them to bits … into tiny morsels that slide across the page quickly and without effort?

What on earth do you do with all that wonderful inspiration of the local weather?

Some stories depend upon the weather … The Perfect Storm … would no longer matter without the raging winds and rains. What on earth would London have done with the freezing cold of the Alaska wilderness if Buck had to live in a short, sweat place and hurry his canine ass to the next page?

Think about all those classics you loved so much and what might happen to them if they were being edited today.

funny-weather-report

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With one swipe of my keyboard I’ have transformed them into a collection of amalgams and caricatures of the once familiar, featured players in my known and unknown plots.

Snippets from Sunset Park:

A blizzard in New York is not worth a blip to the old salts in North Dakota, Minnesota, or Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Not worth any notice in the frozen tundra where hearty folks play and work in the deep freeze and ice fish in small houses sitting a-top frozen bodies of water. Just another reason for me to be thankful I live in the semi-freeze of grime and pollution in New York City.

You could say grime and pollution are two of my favorite things, though not as much fun as “whiskers on kittens.” My favorite things are often the discards and left over pieces of other lives or other times.  I collect them, sort and store them.  I come in after the dead, after the disaster, after life has unveiled her naked truth and all is in a state of disrepair, to sweep away the debris, repair the scars, and make it whole and clean again. 

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When winter came, and with or without blizzards, it always came, I loved the let the chill run through my blood. Feeling a wicked chill, I could wrap myself with an old throw and sit by the windowsill watching flakes swirling and dancing in the wind, and the city lights, like sentries coming on in a series of bleeps from an unseen computer.

I love watching the snow and how it turns the concrete and asphalt of the city into a white winter wonderland, for exactly as long as it takes for the cars, buses, taxis and droves of city commuters to stomp it lifeless.  Before the daylight beats down and melting oceans of gray slush appear at the corners where the sewers are always blocked.

But for now it’s beautiful to look on as it falls under the cover of darkness, against the stark yellow of the streetlights.

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What should you do when the place for weather or whether or not to overly describe the place IS the story?

funny places

 Funny Places

 From a collection of short stories called The Five Seasons …

Strangers never walked up the hill from the train station. Out of town guests, a grandchild or an older sister, were picked up by family or delivered by local cab drivers, who spent their days leaning on fenders, smoking short Lucky Strike cigarettes and raising an eye brow or two for a pretty girl. Other passengers might be headed to one of the new businesses or the community college along the interstate or the big university in town. Special cabs and small trolley-type buses in bright colors, marked with the proper destinations were made available for these. 

No. Strangers never walked from the train station to South Bridge Street. The only direction anyone on South Bridge Street wanted to go was out. It didn’t matter how or in which direction, didn’t even matter if a person went by train or bus or if their date took them in his shiny new yellow pick-up truck.

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Past houses with sagging front porches and front yards with brown shrubs and a tangle of weeds and bare vines, Viola strode up the long hill until it leveled off on Main Street. Across Main Street and half way up the next hill, Viola stayed a few steps ahead until they reached the beginning of North Bridge Street. She turned and laughed. “Good thing you don’t mind walking.”

 They continued to the end of the next hill. The first change he felt was the hush silence of the deep green lawns, the neat front yards and the pale pastel colors of flowers and shutters. It occupied an entire corner on Bridge and Mill Lane with manicured lawns, stone pathways and gardens. 

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The porch wrapped around from the front to the south side of the main building and afforded shade and protection from sun or rain, held rockers, a porch swing for two, several straight back chairs, tables, a ceramic gnome and hanging pots spilling over with lilac, blue sage and pale green ferns. 

Painted in traditional shades of pink and sage, the gingerbread and latice work in bright white and tints of pastels, this house provided for the comfort and privacy of up to twelve paying boarders. On the second floor were eight spacious, single rooms and four private suites with attached private baths.

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When it matters most to put in seasons and weather or whether a place is important to the story, do you need to rush? Is it truly the trend of today to keep all but the immediate plot moving at the speed of light? Readers today don’t like long, winding descriptions? Perhaps that is so, but readers are a funny lot. One minute they are skimming through that long passage you created with love and attention to minutia and detail … and the next they are spell-bound at the rich description of where the story takes place.

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Colors, shades of pastels and brightly arranged and carefully placed adjectives that give your plot and characters a meaningful backdrop from which to jump off, may not be as prevalent today as they were in the grand Victorian Age, but each writer must make the decision as to how they can best use the setting, the place for the weather or whether or not any of it has a place in your plot.

Tell me, how do you resolved this issue when you write?

Do you suffer from long-winded prose?

Or do you tuck in all the loose ends for an easier read?

fOIS In The City

 

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20 Comments

Filed under Random Thoughts

20 responses to “A place for weather or whether a place …

  1. I am not heavy into describing details. I write snippets of information to give the reader a feel for where the scene takes place and what the people look like but I leave a lot to the reader’s imagination. I enjoy dialogue the best. But, Florence, you are SO good at it and I enjoy all of the above, especially the one about the snow being “stomped lifeless” by the pedestrians and cars. GREAT! Are you a Margie graduate? I can tell.

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    • Hey Patti, yes I am a Margie Grad … However … all of these passages were written a long time ago before I took her advanced editing class. What I learned the most from Maggie is how to be very economical with my descriptions, so some of these would be cut a bit to fit in better and read smoother.

      Thanks, you don’t want to see snow in NYC a few days after that first white blanket 🙂

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  2. christicorbett

    I’m SO glad I didn’t have my usual cup of coffee for when I read your posts, because this time I cracked up when I saw that “thin mints” cartoon and would have spewed coffee all over the laptop 🙂

    I tend to write very simple, and straight to the point so long-winded prose is very rare in my writing. However, I LOVE reading that type of writing. It’s so beautiful, and something I wish I could create.

    Christi Corbett

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  3. somethings are meant to be enjoyed slowly

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  4. Hi, Florence. Not long ago, I wrote a romantic comedy and when finished, I realized I had not described the heroine at all. I let some friends read the story first and no one, NO ONE said a thing. They cared more about the plot. But the beauty of going back and adding was putting in unique details.

    I finished rereading books by a favorite author and she wrote very descriptive passages that were appropriate for the time. When skimming them, I went no no no. And reread because in there were nuggets of fresh writing that should be remembered and hopefully, I will be able to do the same.

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    • Vicki, I think it would shock many of the “old school” writers to see how much readers don’t miss descriptive narrative. And about the main characters, there are some that believe it’s better to let each reader imagine what they look like 🙂

      I think some of us who have a history with the classics, do miss those poetic prose … however … I agree that the popular trend is to put as little as possible 🙂

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  5. annerallen

    All of these descriptive passages would work in a contemporary novel if the were cut by a beat or two. We want all that feeling of the weather, just not so much of it. It requires the same skills, but we need to sketch in broader strokes.

    And some of these are actually very close to poetry. Just beautiful. Poems will always provide a place for descriptive writing.

    Contemporary fiction readers may only want story, but poetry readers want the full experience.

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    • Ah, the curse of it all, Anne. I am “old school” and love poetic prose. I try to keep it to a minimum with stories I do now, but I do miss those ramblings in some of what I have written before.

      Thanks, as a writer, I morphed from poetry to shorts to novels and the influence of the poetry has remained a trait I see in my work, even in my genre fiction 🙂

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  6. Your description is always wonderful, Florence. I, however, don’t write much description in my prose. In fact, my first drafts are usually just talking heads. 🙂

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  7. I love your descriptions, Florence, and there will always be a place for them. I just finished reading “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Holy moly, can she write! I liked “Eat Pray Love” but it didn’t blow me away. “Signature” is something totally different — long, immersive, lush with weather and descriptions of plants. All the negative reviews said, “Too long, thought it would never end.” I never wanted it to end. Really, it all depends on the book and the reader.

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    • Thanks. I know what you mean, Debra. Yes, I will always have a soft spot for that type of writing. It isn’t the popular mode these days, yet I think it speaks to us of a deeper need for more meaningful stories. And it is true that it depends entirely on the reader and the book 🙂

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  8. My editor is always yelling at me to give more details, lol. I sometimes wonder if I should write scripts instead b/c I love writing dialogue 🙂

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  9. I’m not long-winded but do like to describe things in nature to a degree. While I do write YA I also write for adults, yet that part of my writing doesn’t seem to change much. Also it would probably depend upon the story. I don’t mind reading some description, I think it’s sometimes needed to set the tone, but if a book has really long passages I tend to skip.

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  10. Florence, Here I am, late to the party, again! I was showing Tom a peony blooming brilliantly in our backyard under the harshest of conditions. This was a peony that had been moved four times because it didn’t like any of the places where we had previously planted it. I even gave it away to a friend but although she was here many times, and I offered to dig it for her, she always said she’d get the peony later. Long story – the peony stood in frozen water about a foot deep all winter and then we had an ice storm that had us at sub-zero for a little over a month. Things warmed up and the peony stood in water again. The poor thing should have been dead many times.
    Tom said the beautifully blooming peony reminded him of all the writing rules he’s heard discussed. And, I’m beginning to agree with him. After hearing a well-known speaker talk about ‘the absolutes’ in writing, I came home and started a novel from a debut author that broke 5 of the major sins.
    And about your question on description, you already know, I want description and will put a book down if my senses haven’t been fulfilled.
    Another great blog.

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    • Thanks so much as always, Sheri … I love the story of your peony. They are usually such delicate and sensitive plants that I am surprised they bloomed after all that cold. Yes, yes … Tom is so right. The rules are only as good as the editor that decides to ignore them 🙂

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