Writing through the Seasons

Hello SE friends. Gwen with you today.

Winter is upon us in the northern hemisphere, and the change of seasons and related celebrations prompt today’s post.

In the United States, we recently enjoyed Thanksgiving, and in a couple of weeks, we celebrate Christmas. Since the beginning of time, we humans have found reasons to revel. We’re social animals, and as far back as 7,000 BC, we enjoyed alcohol. Where folks are having a drink, there’s a good chance they’re celebrating something—the harvest, a full moon, a marriage, a birthday, a ball game, a reunion. The list is lengthy. We like to gather and laugh with others, don’t we?

For writers, holidays and celebrations help us situate and stage our stories. Readers have a sense of time when there’s a parade or an exchange of gifts. There’s also the inevitable chaos—children running wild, old resentments surfacing, and burnt meals. Those hiccups and others can enrich our stories.

With the above in mind, I created a seasonal table and listed a few events/holidays. This simple exercise opened my eyes to the importance of using the seasons when we write. Perhaps you’ll find it useful as well.

The members of Story Empire often bring the seasons into their stories. Several have Christmas novellas, others like Joan Hall, Mae Clair, and D. Wallace Peach, created suspense and mystery through cold snowy settings. C.S. Boyack used the fall winds to build drama on the sea. My WIP draws the reader into autumn with torrential rain and fallen leaves.

How about you? Do you include the seasons and the accompanying celebrations in your stories? I’d love to hear about your process and how you situate your stories in time.

Till next time, dear friends, may your holidays be blessed.

75 thoughts on “Writing through the Seasons

  1. Wonderful chart, Gwen. I love it when seasons play a role in a story. Especially when they kind of become a character (or at least, and no pun intended) a force of nature. (Think of The Shining and how that would have been different in a monsoon or drought. In some ways, it wouldn’t even have been possible. It certainly would have required a different ending.) Great post.

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    • Nice to meet you, Scott. It does seem like time flies past. The seasons help us pause and see time differently. Thank you for visiting this site.

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  2. I suspect that it is simply because I am Scottish but the landscape and weather as well as the seasons often hold centre stage in my books. In a land that is harsh, especially above the highland line, where the sky lowers the landscape and weather dreech, often hosting all four seasons in one day, there is no surprise that it fascinates us. Hallowe’en originated here, Many of the harsher Christian traditions also. Yet in a land that sold itself to another greater power we need to revel in what mysteries we can trying to overcome our shame. In all Scots dramas the weather and seasons play a part.

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    • Thank you for sharing as you have, Ray. I’ve yet to visit Scotland, but it’s a trip I’d love to make. Your explanation about how/why you incorporate the seasons in your writing is fascinating, so much so that I’ve just ordered one of your latest books, The Dead Girl and the Wandering Tree. Thank you again.

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      • Hi Gwen, I would heartily recommend Scotland for a visit, so much to see and do but I would recommend Summer. No guarantee even in the summer months that it will not rain every day but at least it is likely to be a shade warmer. Despite the weather and the midges (a tiny gnat that swarms in vast numbers and bites everywhere on the odd day it is warm and dry) I would always recommend a visit. I have been lucky enough to travel a fair bit and have been to many other countries but despite the weather there is still something wonderful about Scotland.
        Thanks so much for buying the book, very kind of you, I hope you enjoy it. As luck would have it you have bought a book that does not Centre on the weather and an odd one for me at that. Rather than being a true novel it is a story or series of stories drawn together by “The Dead girl and the Wandering tree”. You will see what I mean when you read it. Thanks again.

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  3. Seasonal events are a great way to anchor events in time without being too specific. Being too specific on timing is something I struggle with, so this is a nice alternative to a specific date. Even a holiday parade doesn’t always happen on the holiday. Thanks Gwen!

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  4. Hi, Gwen! Thank you for the shout-out. I do love using seasons in my writing. In addition to the cold weather, I’ve also written a book where Halloween factored heavily into the storyline, and another that relied on a summer vacation setting. Seasons frequently call to me when I’m creating a story. I love weaving in the many sensory moments they present.
    I love your charts!

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    • Thank you, Mae, for the examples and the confirmation. Only recently have I realized the importance of situating a story in time via seasons or celebrations. I’m learning through these discoveries and shifting how I write. 😊

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  5. In one of my historical novels, the Vikings in Britain celebrate Yule. In another there is the Celtic fest of Imbolc at the beginning of the year, and Samhain. Also the Roman festival of Saturnalia.
    In a short story I’m currently writing, it is set in winter just over the Christmas period.

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    • Thank you, V.M., your share is illuminating. I’m in awe of the research you must do to create your novels and give them life through the festivals of that time period. Amazing. 😊

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  6. Great post and chart, Gwen 🙂 You had a couple of holidays I had never thought to incorporate into stories but would be a nice addition. I love to use winter storms or a beautiful sumner day in my stories. They do become a character or set the atmosphere in the story 🙂

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    • Thank you, Denise. You have a wonderful way of bringing your characters into the outdoor world of seasons and weather. I always appreciate how you create these scenes. 😊

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  7. This is such an insightful post, Gwen. It’s true the season we choose to create our story in can impact the plot in a big way. My current WIP is set in the hot, dry summer when crops wither and rain is scarce. It adds to the desperate need to produce a crop. I love this table. It gives so many different opportunities for writing around seasons or holidays. Fantastic! Thank you for sharing.

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    • I love your cover designs (and your writing). You bring in the seasons in a wonderful way. I’ve much to learn from you, Jill. Thank you for sharing. 😊

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  8. I read Gwen’s post with a great deal of interest, as I’ve never thought about grounding my fiction with seasonal celebrations. Instead, I use the seasons to ground myself in place and time in order to write whatever scene I’m about to write. Because I tend to describe the season outside my window, for my current novel-in-progress, I took photographs of the natural landscape every month where the story is set. I also jotted down what the season smells like, so I don’t forget.

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  9. I laughed when I saw Burning Man on your list, Gwen. You’re right that it’s a celebration and what a great backdrop that would make for a story. Even places that don’t have much seasonal change will have holidays that can impact the stories. I pay a lot of attention to the seasons because most of my fantasies take place in pre-tech worlds where attention to the natural environment is necessary for survival. Fun post, my friend.

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    • Thank you, Diana. I’ve never gone to the Burning Man festival (and will not be going), but the event fascinates me–from afar. BTW you’ve taught me a lot about accompanying the seasons in our writing. 😊

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      • I don’t think I’ll ever go to burning man either, Gwen. Those people stay up too late and my bedtime is 8:00! And thanks for the kind comment, though seasons and weather have played a role in stories since the beginning. It’s something to exploit!

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  10. Thanks for the shout-out, Gwen. I do like to incorporate the seasons into my writing. Since I love nature and the outdoors, it comes naturally. Nice table you put together. Gives me food for thought. (Oh, no more story ideas!) 🙂

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  11. Thank you, Gwen, for a very useful list of American “occasions”. They can make stories “live” in a way readers understand.
    From the advertising POV, remember Mothers’ Day in the UK is a Sunday in March – it varies, so do check annually.

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    • Thank you, Sarah. Your point is a good reminder of how holidays or events are unique to each country. For several years, I lived in Kyoto, Japan. The Gion Festival takes place during the whole month of July. It is extraordinary, and it involves millions of people. If I were to create a story involving that area, I’d likely include this festival. That’s fun to think about–you’ve sparked some ideas. 😊

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  12. Pingback: Writing through the Seasons | Legends of Windemere

  13. Great ideas, Gwen. For fans of the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves (and a favorite on BritBox), you’re aware how the author featured a little known holiday and made it part of the climax. That holiday influenced the tone and mood of the story, a model for others.

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      • If you like to read scripts, David Kane did an excellent job of adapting Cleeves’ books. Also, the actor Douglas Henshall does a brilliant job of interpreting the character Jimmy Perez, bringing to life the emotions and thoughts Cleeves captured in her book. BTW: The holiday that played prominently in Raven Black was the Viking fire festival ‘Up Helly Aa’.

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  14. As a reader, I do notice when seasons and what goes with them are included. Now I’m thinking how the last book I read takes place over four days to prepare and celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi back in 1942 – a holiday I’d never heard of since my family is less than religious. I think adding a seasonal element brings that much more to the story .

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    • Thank you for sharing this, Dale. Only recently did I notice that stories are enriched by time elements. Reading D. Wallace Peach’s latest book really brought it home for me. Now I’m alert to seasons and time. 😊

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