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Monday, April 28, 2008

It's Raining, It's Pouring . . .

Once upon a time, I went to a conference session on writing short stories and learned this important advice: Do not begin your story with a paragraph about the weather.

A short story doesn't have the space to accommodate lengthy passive descriptions. I'm not talking about a mention of the weather, such as "Because it was raining, Jim took the bus and sat down to a man who turned out to be his wife's other husband." I'm talking about those leisurely discourses of the sky, the presence of clouds, whether a breeze was blowing, and on and on.

A corollary to this piece of advice is: Do not start your story with a long description of the geography (unless the land is a leading character in the story, and even then, I'd think twice about it).

Writers seem prone to these introductory bits in the same way that movies have long establishing shots--where you get a clue about where you are in the world, then gradually move in and meet the characters. But a movie is equivalent to a book. In an article, the weather and the land get in the way. Get to your characters. Get to the action. Even in a book, I get impatient with that description stuff. It is, like, Dickens-esque.

And the standard disclaimer applies: This rule has been successfully broken. Just think carefully before you go yammering on about the weather, OK?

category: craft
labels: writing, weather's place


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