Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Using Seasons (not Seasoning) to Deepen a Scene

By Orly Konig, @OrlyKonig

Part of the How They Do It series

Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats. She is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, a quarterly contributor to Writers In The Storm blog andThinking Through Our Fingers, and an active member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She is represented by Marlene Stringer of Stringer Literary. Her debut women’s fiction, The Distance Home, released from Forge in May 2017.

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Take it away Orly...

Each of us connects with the seasons in a different way. A particular season may trigger certain memories or feelings, alter our moods or even our behavior.It’s not a new concept – acknowledgement of seasonal mood disorders dates back to the fourth century Greek philosopher Posidonius.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything, actually.

The season (or seasons) in which you set your story can impact not only the behavior of your characters, but also the tone of the story.

Let’s take a look at each season and a few of the different feelings, smells, emotions they conjure.


Regeneration. Fresh green leaves. Flower blossoms. The first lawn mowers disrupting the quiet morning. Birds singing. Burst of new energy. Lighter clothes. Dressing in layers. The freedom of open windows. The smell of mulch. Optimism. Restlessness. Sleeplessness. Headaches as allergies kick in. Overwhelmed by the final planning for summer camps or vacations.


Humidity. Heat. Fresh cut grass. Thunder storms. Bare feet. Frizzy hair. Downtime. Upside down schedules with kids out of school. Hot breeze. Ice cream. Lemonade. Salty beach breeze. Sand. Chlorine. The music of the ice cream van. Lazy. Relaxed. Self-conscious in summer clothes. Comfortable in summer clothes. Exposed. Lethargic. Happy. Cranky. Sweaty. Allergies.


Crisp air. Vibrant colors. Rustle of leaves. Warm days, cold days, colder nights. Wood burning fireplace. Cozy scarves and hats. Flannel pajamas. Closed in feeling of a turtleneck. Apple cider. New start with school. Cranky kids and frazzled parents. Relieved parents sending kids back to school. Earlier bedtimes. Sentimental. Excitement building up to the holidays. Depression leading up to the holidays.


Invigorating. Cozy. Comfort food. Warm blankets. Fuzzy socks and oversized sweaters. Blinding white snow.The hush of the world after a snowfall. Snow plows scraping the streets. Blast of warm as you enter a building. Bare trees. Dead grass. Dark. Tired. Peacefulness. Restlessness. Sleeplessness. Exhaustion. The urge to hibernate. Claustrophobic.

Now, think about how those feelings and moods and smells can work for and against your characters:


Your character has been working in the garden, planting trees and flowers, and installing a new fountain, excited to surprise his wife with her dream garden when she returns home from a three-day trip to visit their aging mother. It’s the perfect spring day – the birds are chirping, the air is fresh, the sky is the perfect shade of blue, and he sets up the patio table for dinner. He’s just about done when the call comes in – his wife was in a car accident and killed instantly. Will he see the gorgeous new garden as a tribute to her or will he grab the weed whacker and demolish all the new flowers because they shouldn’t live if she can’t?


Your character has been struggling with her self-image (everything in her closet has been shrinking and her husband has been a wee bit less attentive of late) and self-worth (her son keeps talking about his buddy’s amazing mom who mountain bikes and plays football with them and her job has just been eliminated). Will the prospect of endless hot summer days send her into a panic of being seen in shorts, or worse a swimsuit, next to awesome mom or depression that once again she’s facing a long three months of trying to measure up and failing or will the memories of relaxed summer days and long family vacations be the reminder that she needs down time to reconnect with herself and her family?


It’s been five months since your character lost her mother and the holidays are approaching when she discovers that after years of trying, she’s finally pregnant. Does the news pull her out of the fog of loss, into the mounting excitement of new holiday traditions or does the news make her angry and depressed that after all these years of trying, now when her mom is no longer around to enjoy her grandchild, she finally gets pregnant?


Your character and her boyfriend have been out snowshoeing for most of the day instead of sitting at the cozy cafĂ© she’d eyeballed the day before. She’s tired, cold, hungry, and muscles she didn’t know she had are screaming for a hot bath. But her boyfriend insists that they have dinner first. She gets even more annoyed that once again, he puts his needs first. They’re seated at a table by the fireplace and now she’s tired, hot, hungry and her muscles are still screaming for a bath. And then he proposes. Will she melt at the cozy, romantic setting and say yes? Or will the long day and hot setting backfire and make her feel smothered so that she breaks up with him instead?

If a setting doesn’t feel quite right play the “what if” game with the seasons. Will a change of season alter how your story unfolds? Is there more you can do with a scene by tapping into the emotions of that season.

Now just for fun, I found a survey that tells you what month you belong in.

About The Distance Home

Sixteen years ago, a tragic accident cost Emma Metz her two best friends—one human and one equine. Now, following her father’s death, Emma has reluctantly returned to the Maryland hometown she’d left under a cloud of guilt.

Sorting through her father’s affairs, Emma uncovers a history of lies tying her broken family to the one place she thought she could never return—her girlhood sanctuary, Jumping Frog Farm.

Emma finds herself drawn back to the stable after all these years. It’s easy to win forgiveness from a horse, but less so from her former friend Jillian, their once strong bond destroyed by secrets and betrayals. But despite Jillian’s cold reception, for the first time in years, Emma feels at home.

To exorcise the past, Emma will have to release her guilt, embrace an uncertain future, and trust again in the healing power of horses.

Orly Konig's The Distance Home is a powerful and sparkling women's fiction debut of second chances, friendship, and healing.

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  1. Seasons also tell us something about location - is Christmas in summer or winter? Does the character call it fall or autumn?

    I love the idea of considering the season as part of the setting. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great post. I give a lot of thought to time of year as part of setting. Not only for descriptive details, but also to enrich mood and help me plot.