Monday, December 27, 2010
Weather and Murder
We have over a foot of fresh snow on the ground, with more falling. We've had blizzard conditions (defined as "Less than 1/4 mile visibility and winds at more than 35 mph for three hours") overnight. It's beautiful, transformative, and dangerous. Later, when the sun comes out and we shovel the walks and driveway, it will invite sledding, snowball fights, cross-country skiing. But for now it's still frigid. The biting wind threatens exposed skin. Wires are at risk of collapsing and leaving people without power.
One of the 'rules' of writing is Don't Begin with the Weather. But conditions like this just beckon for a crime story. I'm particularly in mind of winter murder since finishing Louise Penny's Dead Cold recently. It takes place in small-town Quebec, a setting I am well familiar with. I have visited my sister Jannie in exactly that setting frequently over the decades. Penny describes the weather and the cold, snowy setting almost as a character. Because she's such a good writer, you don't realize it, but after you finish reading the book, the mind-pictures of the ice and bitter temperatures remain vivid.
I have set stories in every season except deep winter, and I haven't written a murder story involving blizzard conditions yet. This weather just might kick-start a few ideas. How would you stage a snowy murder?