Saturday, July 24, 2010

MURDER’S GREAT IN THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER!

Aren’t these nasty dog days of summer perfect for writing murder, or abduction, or maybe something far more sinister?

What ideas are sizzling through your mind today?

These hot mamas are the perfect time to imagine an abducted orchestra director confined in a sweltering room with no a/c. A rusty, squeaky fan over his head squawks its complaints every revolution and reminds him to wipe his forehead, but he can’t. A burlap hood is tied too tightly at his neck and he simply has to sit as the squawk increases the drip, drip, drip down his eyes and over his mouth. As he waits . . .

Or an afternoon storm knocks out, not only the a/c, but all the electricity in a small town in rural Georgia. The old couple inside, alone and dependent on each for many years, must decide whether to brave the 104 degrees outside or to hide in a hotter than humane closet after they hear scraping noises coming from under their front porch. Is it their drug-addicted son returned to steal from them again, or an animal trying to burrow under the house, away from the sizzling heat?

With bugs more plentiful, and grass the color of wheat, a woman bags up a lunch and her favorite book. She limps to her car, deposits her crutches in the back, and drives to the lake a quarter mile from her home. There, her nineteen-foot sailboat beckons her to skim over the water and feel a breeze for the first time in two weeks. Having been holed up in her tiny apartment, a poor substitute for the sprawling house she's about to lose in a nasty divorce, she longs for a few hours on the open water. Waves of heat slither up her legs as she makes her way over the dock. A couple hundred feet from shore, the wind dies, but a boat pulls alongside. It’s her ex-husband’s best friend, Jason and . . . a girlfriend? Can't be, Jason's never hidden the fact he's not into girls. She waves and the boat pulls even closer to reveal Jason, her ex-husband, a thick coil of marine rope . . . and a gun.

How big a role does weather or conditions of any kind play in your writing? Do you base an entire scene around it? Do you start with . . . it was a dark and stormy night?

Ooh, I hope not.

Or do you treat specific conditions like salt to sprinkle and flavor the writing?
Whatever you do, don’t waste these dog days writing about skiing in Colorado. Feel the heat as you bump off the elderly couple, the musician, or the woman whose settlement depends on whether or not she lives to get to court.

11 comments:

  1. How about sailing in 90 degree temperatures with the sun beating down on you and the wind coming from the south (giving you no relief). Moreover, your engine has died and south is the only direction you can go to escape the boat closing fast from the north. As you beat against the wind, tacking frequently, you wonder if the pursuing boat contains modern-day pirates or fellow cruisers.

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  2. Oooh, Kathryn, that's good. I just love when weather plays a part in a story. My suspense novel, BLOW OUT THE CANDLES AND SAY GOOD-BYE takes place partly in the middle of an Upper Peninsula Michigan snowstorm. With tires squealing and kidnapped children crying, it's fun to see what unfolds in the middle of the storm.

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  3. Well, Kathryn, fortunately, if you're beating into the wind, you probably aren't feeling that 90 degrees -- assuming you have enough wind to move you. And if the boat that's pursuing has an engine, and you're beating, honey, it's time to get on your knees.

    I remember crossing the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan, engineless, in December a few years ago. The two-day trip took six. At night, drifting along in no wind, watching the horizon and radar for ferries or fishing boats...yep, that could have been a great scene. Because any of those boats on the radar could have overtaken us and then? Or a storm could have come up, which would have finally gotten us going, but out in the middle of the sea, it could have meant all sorts of things....

    Love the post, Linda. Good things to think about. Because there's not much breeze blowing, the water is flat, and it's almost too hot to play in the dinghy.

    Perhaps there'll be a storm in Beaufort tonight to shake things up for the characters there.

    Hugs,
    N

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  4. Summer=lemonade, front porch swings, fresh berries rolled in sugar. Those are my favorite memories with my grandparents. Who, thankfully, never had the trauma of being characters in a murder plot! :-)

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  5. The heat awakens a part of him that he wished he forgot. Walks normally helped him cool down, but the sun beat into his skin with no forgiveness. When he finally got back to his lonely apartment he slammed the door in frustration and headed for the fridge for anything to help cool him down. He opens the door to find nothing appetizing. This was not new to him since his wife left him though so he grabs something in a can and pops it open. Walking to his room he notices the front door was open to the outside and he slams it shut muttering complaints about wasting money on air conditioning, then cursing a bit remembering he had none anyway. He gets into his bedroom, slams the door shut, and sits on his single twin bed. Lifting the can to his lips he stops when he hears his closet doors squealing open...

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  6. Normandie, I see another story percolating in your head. And Karla, I spent yesterday freezing, (and eating) a lot of fresh summer fruit. Yummy!
    BRANDON, great job! Your comment would be a wonderful lesson for show don't tell. Another writer might have written: He was hot! But you really brought out the feelings that adjective evokes. Great job! You sure get the show vs. tell concept very well done!

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  7. Great advice, Linda. My first contemporary women's fiction starts out with a heavy fog that leads to a horrible car accident. Weather can add a lot to a scene as, a you demonstrated, there are so many interesting ways to describe it. Love your blog!

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  8. Thank you. You, too. The pics of the little koalas made me smile! You sure do take us to exciting places on your blog.

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  9. Great tips Linda! I need to concentrate on the weather too. Enjoy your website.

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  10. LOL! Great post! As you well know, I like moonlight. :-) I really need to pay attention to the weather in my stories more though. Ha! So while you've been daydreaming about murders I was dreaming about my next romance and who the characters might be. :-)

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  11. I know who one will be. Six foot something or other, hair slipping over his forehead, chiseled jaw, inviting eyes, great muscles, and a mouth that begs for a kiss.
    Wow! Do I know you, or what?
    Go Jess!

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