Whether to Weather #amwriting #bunchcourtney #crimefiction @MishaHerwin @CorrineLeith @JillsBookCafe @chataboutbooks1 @razumova @penkhullpress @BunchCourtney00

weatherI thought about blogging on the weather and thought better of it. What more can I say that a few hundred newscasts haven’t said already?

The recent unprecedented heat did raise a few thoughts – about how weather is used in books.

Of course, various writers have already made comments on the subject. The writer Elmore Leonard is famous for advising writer to “Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people.”

He may well be correct. There is no getting away from weather in books however, and it’s possible that we Brits, as an island race, use weather references in our writing lexicon far more than others do.

download (1)Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (a best-selling author in his day) penned the opening “It was a dark and stormy night.”  This line quickly became perhaps the world’s most infamous cliché. It inspired a competition run by San Jose Uni, challenging entrants to compose “the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.”  It also lent Snoopy, from the Charles Schultz’s Peanuts cartoon strip, material for a long running gag on Snoopy’s literary aspirations.  But nobody would dream of using it in any way other than heavily ironic. As with all things there are degrees.

In point of fact there are entire genres given over to the weather, from summer romances and Christmas cosy crimes to global climate-apocalypse dramas – something that I suspect we shall see far more of, given the evidence of the rise of unprecedented weather phenomena.

Weather matters.

Currently I am preparing In Cases of Murder (Bunch Courtney Investigations Book 4. On page one I describe cow parsley and willow herb flowering along the roadside, and that Bunch has to groom chalk dust from her horse that was kicked up along dry chalk trackways. In a later chapter, a curtain hanging by an open window is wet from the summer rainstorm. Beyond that, weather barely gets a mention; and why would it when it’s simply the backdrop to a crime drama?

Winter Downs (A Bunch Courtney Investigation Book 1)By contrast Winter Downs, the first book in the series, which could almost qualify as a locked-farm mystery when the farm and village are cut off from the outside world by a heavy snowfall. All of the action is confined to the immediate area and the weather almost becomes a character in its own right. By and large I agree with Leonard’s advice, but on this occasion the second paragraph ends with, “She (Bunch) tucked rogue strands of dark hair beneath her hat, secured her plaid scarf, and thought how tempting it would be to return home. The sky had grown heavier in the half hour they had been out and fresh snow was beginning to fall in earnest.” That snowfall scene triggers the locked-room mystery scenario and needs to be there right at the very start.

Sometimes we need a little more weather in our fiction. But there are elements in the real  world, such as this past week’s heatwave, that we would willingly do without.


Bunch Courtney Investigations are available in kindle and paper formats from amazon uk and com – or message me for signed copies!

Find all links for Winter Downs,  In Her Defence and  Listed Dead here

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