Fall finally reached Tennessee this past week. I know, it’s been fall for quite a while according to the calendar, but only in the last several days has it started to feel like autumn. The air has turned cold, leaves are changing, gusts of wind are making the trees sway and stripping away the foliage. And now, at last, the rains have moved on. Today is a perfect fall day: crisp, clear, breezy. The sky is azure, and the oaks outside my office window are shading toward bronze. When I stepped outside this morning, I was greeted by the faint scent of burning leaves.
This is my favorite time of year, but the truth is I love all the transitions from season to season — I look forward each year to the first hint of snow on a December evening, that first warm day in March, the first afternoon thunderstorm on a hot, hazy day in June. And part of what I love about these seasonal changes is that inspire my writing.
If you look back through my books, you can find passages that tell you when during the year I happened to write them. For instance, this is from my first novel, Children of Amarid:
Without another word he spun away from them, striding purposefully toward the Great Hall and compelling the three accused mages to follow by the sheer force of his will, like dried leaves swept forward in the wake of a galloping mount.
These passages are from Shapers of Darkness, the fourth Forelands book:
All her life, Chofya had loved the slow hot days of the Growing turns. While others complained of the heat, she basked in it, thinking back to her youth in the hills south of Noltierre, where the sun baked the clay and the brush and skin of small children to a fine golden brown.
Just the mention of [the growing season] called to mind dreary days trapped within the walls of her mother’s castle, staring out at the warm rains and the brilliant lightning that arced across the sky on the coast near Curlinte. “Growing rains bring a good harvest,” her mother used to say, when Diani complained to her of horseback rides put off by another storm. “It’s the Growing sun I fear.”
I remember vividly writing these passages, drawing upon what I was seeing and feeling every time I stepped outside. (That last one was written at the beginning of the Southeast’s extended drought, by the way.) But I find that I use seasonal imagery for more than just descriptions. I’ll draw upon them for metaphors and analogies, as ways of establishing mood and developing character. As much as I love the change of seasons, I can also draw upon the darker side of each season, the way I do with the reference to drought in the last example above. Spring brings renewal and warmth; it also can bring floods and violent storms. Fall is beautiful, but it also brings harsh winds and skeletal trees. Winter can be soft snows and peaceful mornings; it can also be howling blizzards and bitter cold.
Here at MW, we’ve posted quite a bit in recent weeks about the use of theme and motif. Seasonal writing is a way to play with those things. As an exercise, try writing a story, perhaps using characters from a current or future project, and using seasonal imagery to convey mood and tone. Use it to describe dialogue or facial expressions. Don’t be too heavy-handed with it, but establish it as a theme of the piece. You can limit the imagery to a single season or try to weave the entire yearly cycle into the piece, so that the theme progresses from season to season as the story progresses. Whatever approach you decide on, have fun with it. This is merely an exercise, something to play with in between works-in-progress.
The point isn’t that you might want to use the seasons as a theme in an actual book — we probably all strive for themes with deeper significance. But this is a great way to practice thematic writing, and also a fun way to celebrate the coming of autumn and the slow approach of winter. Enjoy!David B. Coe http://DavidBCoe.livejournal.com http://www.DavidBCoe.com http://magicalwords.net