30 June 2007

Whether or Not There's Weather

In looking back over one of my WiP fantasy novels, I noticed little mention of the weather. I did okay describing the terrain; probably because I had certain areas of the world in mind I had my characters travel through. I'd been there; I could still picture the countryside. Other places I hadn't been, but looked at pictures of, watched travel videos, read old accounts. But my cavalry captain rides blithely through his fictional world, unaffected by the weather.

That's about to change.

To be fair, the characters live in an area with a temperate climate. Think Greece, Turkey. There are some mountains, seas, changes in elevation. A secondary character comments on the morning chill in one scene. It's not enough. I had to dig back through my memories a ways but I came up with something to throw at my smug captain. Rain. Lots and lots of rain. I remember hiking in torrential downpours in the military. The kind where waterproof clothing only served to make sure you stayed wet AND sweaty. Soggy clothing that added weight to the load you carried. Helmets that dripped water down the back of your neck and into your eyes. Trying to hold onto a weapon that took on all the characteristics of a fresh caught eel. Boots that got wet inside no matter what you did. Then there was the mud.

I never rode a horse through the type of mud I conjured up for my characters, but I remember trying to walk through it. The annoying squelching sound, the slip-slide muscle-tensing way of walking. The spots where the mud seemed determine to pull the boots right off your feet. The way it flicked up and stuck to everything. I can imagine riding a horse in that muck, and pretty soon discovering all your soldiers were caked with mud splatters until they were nigh unrecognizable.

The one good thing I took away from those lovely forced marches was the fact that it ended. Sooner or later, you reached the conclusion of the march, the training exercise was over, the mission was accomplished – something happened to put an end to your own little bubble of misery. Rain didn't last forever, the operation didn't either. Eventually, there was base camp, or barracks, or some chance to rest, dry off, eat hot food and reset your internal fortitudemeter. Good officers and NCOs made sure the troops were taken care of. They knew how far they could push before rebellion reared its head. They doled out attainable goals and stuck to them. 'Just seven more kilometers and we can stop for the night', 'Once we cross that stream, we'll take a break.' This is the talent of my main character; he can motivate his troops because he is riding alongside them, just as miserable as they are.

I'm looking for a place to put unrelenting, blazing heat into the book. Las Vegas was a bit of a revelation. I'd never been that far southwest. It was hot. 114 degrees and nobody even commented. They just shrugged and went from air conditioned hotel to air conditioned car to other air conditioned places. But what would it be like for my characters to live and work in that kind of environment? Even at night, it didn't cool off all that much. But it would be enough. Troops would have to be moved during the night. Water would have to be located far in advance of movement. Even with sunglasses the view was brutal. All details to consider. I have no characters moving through the desert part of my world in this book. Lucky for them. But I'll remember how the desert was, how Red Rocks looked and felt, all the important details. In the other WiP, the characters go from a climate much like southern India to one that is much colder. One character sees snow for the first time ever. That's hard for me to write about, since I grew up with four seasons.

It's so much easier to have every day a temperate one in novels. That's how the first WiP book started out. Perhaps its just some sort of twisted revenge on my part for all the 'fun' I endured in the military, but if I had to train to be miserable, so do my characters. I didn't have to like it, and neither do they.

I'm sure they're going to tell me all about it. Fine. Bring it on, I got an earthquake in my back pocket and I'm dying to use it. I haven't written anything for a week. My characters will rue the day they let me take a vacation, because I had hours and hours to plot my torture of them in loving detail. It's good to be the god of someone else's world.


Anonymous said...

"I never rode a horse through the type of mud I conjured up for my characters,"

Your statement conjured up in my squishy little brain some similarities between horse riders and
Harley riders.

Do not ride in the rain.

Do not ride below 55 degrees F.

Mount must be totally and obsessively groomed before each use in public,no matter how few miles are being ridden.

Overpriced accessories are a must.
(must admit....never saw a lot of "chrome" on a horse).

Horses sat on by human a**.
Harley's sat on by horse's a**.

Forgive me for stereotyping,but it's so much fun!

Anonymous said...

A couple more...

Make farting rumbling noises after being fueled.

Inexperienced riders may get dumped.

Constance said...

Not working today, are you, Bro? *g*
Of course none of this happens to BMW people, right? Weather just bends around them? I've never seen a dirty/muddy/soggy/bug-splattered BMW rider..

Great list! I may have to move it to the front page for Sturgis. :)

Gabriele C. said...

Oh, lots and lots of rain sounds so much fun. And don't give them a nice camp in the evening, mwuahaha. Or let them dig one, at least. Like the Romans. ;)

Btw, if you need info on horses in mud, check this blog, she's a post some way down, and other interesting info besides.

Constance said...

Good horse info. Most of it I can draw from experience, but some things are out of my realm. Nice to have sources to draw on.

I don't detail much camping in the first WiP, they're on the run too much. :) in the second, however, they get into a lot of arguments when stopping for the night. Don't want them to catch up to the bad guys too quick...

Carla said...

I like to see plenty of weather in a novel. Like the landscape, it all helps make the world feel more real. There again, that could just be because I'm British :-)

Constance said...

I think I avoid writing about weather sometimes because of the logistics involved if you're running an army. Or I think of bad movies like Day After Tomorrow and pray I never handle weather THAT badly...