I was reading Jim Butcher’s novel “Proven Guilty” a few weeks ago. Within the plot, the main character, Dresden, struggled against the summer heat as he weaved through the plot. I found the element interesting. In fact, in one scene Dresden left without his shielded trench coat due to the heat then wound up vulnerable in a battle with a monster. I started thinking about this and realized most books are without seasons. The authors may describe certain regional elements. For example, if characters are in Louisiana they will discuss the humidity and if the characters are in Arizona they will discuss the bright sun. But nothing is given in extremes.
In fact, most season books I can think of are theme related:
Christmas joy or Halloween horror. One seasonal movie “Valentine’s Day” centered
on that particular holiday. I’m not sure why people believe seasons have to
relate to holidays. The only reason I can think of is that the holiday is the
center of the story they want to tell. With the Valentine’s Day movie, the
theme was obviously how couples and singles deal with the glamorous holiday. Yet,
I remember reading a mystery by Marry Higgins Clark called “All Through the
Night,” that was centered around Christmas time. This is the first book that
was not focused on Christmas in the Santa Clause or Meaning of Life type
stories. Yet, just like in Butcher’s novel, it added a flavor to the story.
I think, as writers, we are missing the power of seasonal
elements. Sometimes the worst things we have to face as humans—the most
destructive “monsters”—come from natural elements. In Butcher’s novel, the choice
of wearing a protective coat that will compound the already unbearable heat and
leaving it behind against ferocious villains is an interesting one. When he
leaves it behind, the reader understands. When he decides to take it along and
suffer the heat after a gruesome battle, the reader understands and sympathizes.
Such a simple act, and yet it heightens conflict. In Marry Higgins Clark’s
novel, the story centers around a woman separated from her child seven years
ago. Solving this mystery around Christmas only heightens the emotion of the
plot. What was once simplistic and ordinary became captivating.
I think writers stray away from seasons for a simple reason.
Nobody wants to read a book with Christmas in it outside of December, so the
time of publication becomes important. Likewise, readers may not want to read
about summer heat while cooped up by a winter storm. Yet, I think seasons are still
important for a few reasons. First, they provide added conflict. Second, they
can help the setting—an Arizona summer is vastly different than a Louisiana
one. Third, in an industry stressing the importance of description, it provides
an easy avenue to break up the dialogue.
I think the bland atmosphere is important. But, every now
and then, we should venture into seasons and see where it takes the novel.