I’m an angry writer. I don’t so much get Inspired to write something, as I do get angry and frustrated with tropes and constant mistakes. I wouldn’t call this topic a trope perse, but it is a mistake; one that I’ve encountered since I was a wee child reading my first urban fantasy novels.
It is what I have come to call, for lack of a better term
THE TOO-CONVENIENT SETTING.
Now, before I start in my Hades-style rant, let me begin with a tiny note of kindness- you can get away with this from time to time, but you have to do it in short-span. Your story better be short, singular, or occurring in a very small window of time.
Otherwise, you’re no longer in reality.
Example a: You’re working on an urban fantasy series set in the northeast. Or maybe it’s St. Louis. Maybe its Dallas, Texas. Do you know what all of these very different culturally settings have in common? Snow. It happens. Sometimes in small amounts, and sometimes in huge fucking road-vanishing swaths that shut an entire state down for a day or three. Snow is sometimes dry and light, making things blinding but manageable. Sometimes snow is wet and heavy, weighing as much as wet cement, taking down trees and power lines and even caving roofs in.
I did not read a single moment in the urban fantasy series I read as a kid where any of this happened. And it had a dozen books (today I think its over thirty). Snow was present at one of the crime scenes, but it was just Present Snow, not Occurring Snow. As if a nice accumulation had happened perfectly overnight just for the setting of this fucking novel.
I was annoyed, and I filed it away. I made a note: make snow happen in a book sometime. This is why my YA novel is set in February and features both a Nor’easter and our protagonist spinning out on ice in his mom’s car. Because rural winter roads suck ass.
When I first got the idea in my head to write this blog post, it was October 26th 2016. Over that weekend, central Mass received five inches of a rain in just a few hours. I was on a country road with Trish W. visiting Calico the horse when it broke out. Our smartphones told us to stay off country roads.
We were already on a country road. Thanks, weather app.
We got home safe, but it was scary as hell. Worcester, Massachusetts is not a city you would normally associate with flooding. It has a few lakes, but not a vast amount of rivers bisecting it to swell and fuck things up. That night, over half of the city was shut down. Businesses were ruined. And everyone kept saying, “well, we need the rain!”
Sure friend. Sure.
But this does not just apply to northern climates! If your book is set in the American mid-west, your characters will eventually encounter a tornado (Last year alone we’ve had them in both Massachusetts and Florida too!). If they’re in the south, you could have tropical storms that rain for weeks at a time and cause serious damage.
Not all settings will have weather like this. But they will have their issues. If you’re writing for a series, you need to be very well aware of your seasons and how far down the timeline you’ve gone. Extreme bad weather will happen eventually, its only a matter of when. And the longer your series goes on without it, the further from reality you go.
Bad weather happens. It happens a lot. Please don’t make a too-convenient setting for the sake of your plot. It won’t detract from the story, I promise you. It will enhance it. Give it that extra dash of setting to drag your reader into the moment.
Bad weather is good storytelling.
Good weather is bad storytelling.
And if you don’t get that, you probably live in California.