Thursday, September 30, 2010
How does weather influence characters' actions and motivations?
This week, after the Equinox, it has been strangely warm for fall days of equal length in Massachusetts. The light has a slant that, when the air is crisp and clear, brings back memories of new school shoes and the taste of pears in my lunchbox. My personal memories of those aromas come from southern California, but New England fall also brought the start of school for my two sons (although this year is the very last one of those years, John David's senior year at university...), and similar smells. Fresh notebooks. Different soccer uniforms. New expectations.
But when it's 72 degrees at 6 in the morning, the air is hazy and it's just getting light, I am right back in Bamako, Mali, or Ougadougou, West Africa. Those are the only places I have lived that were closer than 15 degrees of latitude to the equator. All year round, dark falls within 30 minutes of 6 pm and gets light within 30 minutes of 6 am. Dawns and twilights are wicked short (as we say in Boston). And that hazy air has nothing crisp about it. By 7:30 it's almost too hot to play tennis, or to go for a run, as if anybody on the streets there needs to run for exercise. They burn enough calories in just living.
Barometric pressure rising or falling can affect moods and health. Humid air or dry, winds or lack thereof, can bring us instantly to another time, another place, another emotion. Living in a rainy climate or an arid one (or one that alternates half years between each), could have a huge effect on a (fictional, let's say) character's stability.
While I know I include descriptions of the local weather in my scenes, and try to make sure it matches the mood and action of the scene, I'm not sure I have fully utilized the effect of weather memories on my characters' actions and motivations. Could Thomas be driven over the edge by the extra-long winter weather this year because of a bitter-cold mistreatment by a departed stepfather? Maybe Virgie's inquisitive, generous nature is a result of growing up in a warm-climate village.
What are your associations with weather and emotion? Do you have favorite fictional characters who act (or not) in accordance with barometric pressure? Have you written any stormy characters who only show up in inclement weather?
Drop in and share, while we enjoy a few hurricane remnants North of Boston tomorrow.