writing the weather

Lawyers Bay

Smails Beach & Lawyers Head Dunedin, 29 Jan 2015.  Picture by Paul Le Comte

“It was a dark and stormy night” predisposes a reader to expect dark and stormy action within a story.  As writers, we manipulate the weather – and some might say, the reader – to suit our story.  It’s fiction after all: who is to say what patterns the weather follows in our make-believe world?

But in writing historical fiction, the weather may well be as important to our story as the landscape.  My stories are set in Dunedin in 1877.  Instead of manipulating the weather to suit the story, I made the decision to accommodate the actual weather into the story.  In doing so, I gained an important insight into the spread of Scarlet Fever; evidence to support the charges of cruelty against Martha Reid; and evidence of perjury committed by several individuals in another case before the Supreme Court.

I’d be interested to hear from other writers who have written through the weather rather than dictating it.

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12 thoughts on “writing the weather

  1. In my story of ‘Daniel’ a New Zealand soldier, pioneer and pacifist, I used the actual weather patterns his ship sailed through on the way to New Zealand from England in 1863.

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      • Not exactly. I found a fairly detailed newspaper report in Papers Past about the journey and did some historical research into weather patterns in the Bay of Biscay. I’m doing the same with my current project ‘The Irish Relative’ who emigrated to Australia in 1886 and came to NZ in 1903.

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    • Papers Past is an amazing resource and should be lauded. The Australian counterpart is not nearly as good. Thanks for seeking out ‘Daniel’. I hope you enjoy it.

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  2. I have just found your blog and a lifeline! I’m currently working though my second draft of ‘Southern Gold’ – the new iniquity, Dunedin 1858-72. A mystery girl and baby arrive in the slums of Maclaggan Street. How does the infant survive to become a force to be reckoned with? Why does the auroura australis of 1872 change her life?
    It is wonderful to find a historical fiction writer working on a similar genre writing through the weather!

    Liked by 1 person

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