Summer weather with its high temperatures, higher humidity, and long days of full sun has settled into the Buckeye State, so my post for July’s Writing in Time is summer weather as writing inspiration.
Heat + Humidity = Crime
Most people will agree that when humans get too hot, we get irritable. That tendency has inspired many mystery writers to set stories during heat waves. Or to put it another way:
“Did you know … more people are murdered at ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit than any other temperature? I read an article once — lower temperatures, people are easy-going. Over ninety -two, it’s too hot to move. But just ninety-two, people get irritable.”from It Came from Outer Space
In The Lady from Shanghai, a film noir from 1948, a married couple and the husband’s law partner are sailing along the coast of Mexico, heading for San Francisco. They stop for a picnic, and in the sweltering heat, fire barb after barb at one another, revealing more and more of their natures. The sailor they’ve hired to pilot their ship tells a story of how he witnessed a feeding frenzy among sharks. He’d never seen anything more awful until this picnic.
I can use the rising temperatures and humidity to mirror escalating tensions between characters. The ultimate confrontation could take place on a sultry night when not even darkness relieves the heat.
Or I can have a sudden thunderstorm appear at the climax as characters clash. In temperate climates, summer thunderstorms usually appear in the afternoon and evening as the heat builds through the day. They are usually brief and violent, a perfect setting and symbol for characters battling each other.
In Watership Down, a fantasy about the lives of wild rabbits in England, a turning point in the story comes when the heroes engineer the escape of several does from a tyrannical warren. The good-guy rabbits have installed one of their own in the warren as a double-agent to help the does escape. As this buck plots to leave the warren with the does, the threat of a thunderstorm builds in scene after scene, so that when the buck and the does make a break for it, so does the thunderstorm, with the tyrant of the warren and his officers in hot pursuit.
Long Summer Evenings
My family recently had the opportunity to stay in a cabin at Shawnee State Park. On the first evening we were there, the sky held white clouds and the sunlight lingered until after 9 p.m. Those kinds of evenings draw me into them. I want to linger too in the soft light.
Summer evenings can be a relaxing way to conclude a story, especially if the main characters have suffered through a lot of trauma and deserve a quiet conclusion. A still summer evening can also provide a contrast to the storyline.
In the mystery short story “Inquest” by Loel Yeo from 1932, an inquest is held in the country home of a wealthy man who has just been found dead. The coroner is trying to establish if the death was suicide or murder. As the August evening grows darker, the verdict seems more and more likely to be one of murder.
For more ideas on how to use July was writing inspiration, click here for my post from 2019.
How can you use the summer weather where you live as writing inspiration? What stories have you read that used summer weather in a memorable way?