Summer seems to be the default season in stories. Sure, lots of writers and readers live in climates without huge seasonal changes, but many (most?) of us are intimately familiar with winter, with its cold biting winds, blowing snow, and icy roads. Don’t our characters deserve to experience winter as well? (Shh, don’t tell mine I said that…)
How many novels can you think of–other than those with Christmas/Thanksgiving themes or anthologies/series specifically focused on seasons (ie: one story for each)–that take place in winter?
Can you think of any reasons why authors avoid wintry books, or do you think I’m overstating the case? (I might be!)
If it’s true, I’ve got some ideas why.
1. In a story that takes place in a city, or with characters who spend much of their time indoors, the weather may not play that large a role in the story. Then, the default seems to be set to summer.
2. Winter interferes with our lives more than summer does. If the story is set in the cold season, we readers expect the conditions to matter to the plot. Otherwise, why set it then?
3. Readers are looking for a getaway, and in our culture that seems to mean sandy beaches, golden sun, and tanned bodies. Who wants to ‘get away’ to forty below?
What do you think? Should there be more winter novels out there?
Sharon Cousins says
The first winter novel that came to my mind is the juvie (YA), Wolves of Willoughby Chase. I loved that one. Still do. Of course Dr. Zhivago has some great winter stuff in it. Seems like lots of Russian novels do. And (of course) Jack London wrote quite a bit of winter, and many of the other adventure writers. Winter can almost be a character in a novel, as light can be almost a character in impressionist painting. A strong season, with vivid contrasts and lots of built in complication.
One of my Feldrea storiesâ€”the first one I ever worked on, which has two major chunks that I need to pull together in Scrivener and line-per-scene to set up to finish the whole thingâ€”is set in high country in the dead of winter. She chases a thief up and through the Devil’s Teeth pass in fact, then has a high old time when he terrorizes the hidden valley and kidnaps the innkeeper’s daughter as hostage. So far the part that involves writing winter has been great.
I agree though. I had to stop and think to come up with much in the way of winter settings, and a lot of them are either Russian or adventure stories set in the north.
I’m guessing that winter plays a large part in Russia (as it does in northern North America!). And yes, I could think of examples, too, but nowhere near 1/4 of the books I’ve read are set in winter.
My first novel, Ghosts in the Snow, definitely happens in winter and my characters have to deal with the snow, slush, ice, cold, and all that stuff. The second novel is in the spring (with mud and rain and storms and flooding), the third in early summer (can you say humidity, heat, and bugs?) and the fourth, still in progress, happens in the fall.
I think that if you’re going to use a season as part of the story, it should matter and impact upon the narrative in some fashion, otherwise, why bother? I think all seasons can make things harder on the characters, even summer (heatstroke, sweating, sunburn, AC breaking, etc). It’s not all picnics and pool parties, after all. 😉
I read Ghosts in the Snow! And yep, played a very big part. I agree that if the season doesn’t affect the narrative, it doesn’t need including, but it makes me wonder WHY it doesn’t affect things. Surely weather affects all of us every day, unless we live in a glass bubble? Anyway, seasons are what I was thinking about, so…what I blogged about!
Katie Hart says
The second novel I wrote was set in winter – and my main character’s name was Winter. While a Christmas twist and the weather did affect the plot, I wanted to sharpen the “winter” of my character’s soul.
Woot, Katie! I remember critting that novel. Wow, been awhile!
You know, that is very true. In all the books I have read (mostly children’s and YA fantasy/speculative mixed with lots of adult mysteries) unless weather/season is specific to the story then it is ignored completely. In fact, it seems to be completely ignored in many of the books I read. Rick Rhiordan is a perfect example–he actually deals with seasons, and talks about them, but very seldom does weather AFFECT the characters and they are supposed to be coming from the the north east where weather plays a significant role in life. This is even true of the 39 Clues–which has 39 books written by different YA authors. Those kids travel all over the globe and other than occasionally getting to go close to the equator for beautiful weather they aren’t affected by it at all. I mean at one point there is a scene in Siberia and there is no mention of the weather. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Gregor the Overlander has one book where he takes his sister sledding in Central Park and she disappears but again that is important to the story.
So yeah, I think you are right. I suspect a lot of it is laziness or not wanting the added stress of working the weather into the story. Also it may be that when our imaginations run wild they seldom think about snow (it just occurred to me that only one of all my paintings has snow, and snow is easy to paint.)
Thanks for stopping by, Heather! It does seem…strange…that a series set all over the world wouldn’t take the climate into play! And I’m guilty of not really USING weather in my stories, either, but I’m trying harder to make it a true part of the story’s setting, as much as the mountains or the rivers or the tulips by the front porch.
And I wouldn’t think snow is easy to paint, with all the shading and nuances!
The Giants of frost is a winter novel. Norse Gods themed modern fantasy. I can think of more, maybe there’s more weather in Sci-fi/fantasy?
Hmm, might be…