I happen to live in an area with four distinct seasons and a wide variety of weather patterns in each season. During winter, it might take over two feet in an overnight snowstorm to prompt any mass closures. In many areas where snowfall is rare, only a couple of inches might do the same thing.
To some degree, we are shaped by the weather around us. So are our characters. As authors, the decision for what season to set their story in is an active, conscious choice.
I’m currently working on Book 3 of the Elliot series, Elliot and the Yeti Threat, which takes place in winter. The snowy terrain not only provides Elliot with many of his problems and solutions, it also is the natural setting for the Yeti who is coming after him, placing Elliot at an additional disadvantage.
Here’s what a few other Inkies had to say:
Kate Coombs just completed a MG fantasy set in June “because I have a really gorgeous garden in the book and needed it to be in bloom, and I also have a hungry character with wings who lands in an orchard early in the book, hoping to eat the fruit, but the pears aren't ripe yet.”
Author of The Witchlanders, Lena Coakley, tells of two different cultures warring for dominance, so she wanted seasons to reflect that split. She “decided that the Witchlands should have only two seasons, and that a dramatic event called the chilling would mark the beginning of winter. In my book the chilling occurs near the beginning of the story: purple clouds reach out like fingers, covering the landscape, and the temperature drops abruptly, freezing rivers overnight. My two main characters are left to fend for themselves in a very bleak and wintery environment, an environment I often used to create obstacles for them by having them face blizzards, bitter cold and even an avalanche.”
In The Unnameables, Ellen Booraem “wanted a feeling of mystery and drawing in and impending darkness, so I set it in the fall. I could set the mood for a day by showing how close we were getting to the onset of winter.”
Both of Marissa Doyle’s books have “season” in their titles and are set in spring. She said, “The first is there because it revolves around the springtime London social "Season" when young ladies were on the prowl for husbands...but there's also the fact that it's the spring of my characters' lives.”
Elizabeth C Bunce’s book, , “takes place in winter--specifically, in a mountain castle that's snowbound due to avalanche--and part of the reason I did that was to capitalize on the isolation of the setting and the inability of the MC to physically escape her circumstances, of her being trapped between two deadly dangers: the intrigue inside the castle, and the raging winter outside. It was also the MC's first exposure to real winter and cold, and I found it served as a great dramatic background to her adjustment to this new life she's stolen into.
Here are a few tips to consider in choosing the season for your story:
1. Is your choice of the season mandated by the needs of the plot? If not, are there any symbolic reasons for choosing a season?
2. Within that season, what is the biggest possible weather incident that could occur?
3. If it happened (even though it may not), how would that big weather incident impact the story?
4. How might the story change if you switched to another season?
5. In what ways might the season or the typical weather play a role in the story?
- Jennifer Nielsen