Monday, March 8, 2010

How's the Weather?

"For three days, winds from the howling nor'easter whipped the seas of Cape Cod Bay into a frothy brew, pummeling the shore with ten-foot waves and pounding seawalls along the coast. Wind gusts of sixty-miles an hour created whirlpools and eddies that rode atop and swirled beneath the unusually high tides, churning the current above and scouring the seafloor below."

Thus begins the first draft of my current WIP, an as yet untitled tale of Cape Cod and pirates that may end up being either "young adult for all ages!" or something more akin to Christopher Moore.

Of course, I'm only 5,000 words into the thing, so I really have no idea where it will go, or frankly, if it will ever be finished.

But having chided someone else recently on a site I frequent for beginning their work with something of a cliché (in that instance, it was all a dream!) I got to wondering about another writing axiom I heard recently (I forget exactly where) that goes: Never begin with the weather!

It's already too late for "Sumner Gardens" ("It was a crisp New England afternoon in late October, with a cool breeze that blew the dry, dead leaves back and forth . . ."), but when I saw how I opened my new work, I remembered the axiom, and something of a chill crawled up my spine. I began to wonder if I'd made a habit of it.

A quick check of a few other stories relieved me of my discomfort:

"Parker dragged deeply on his cigarette and kept the smoke in his lungs for a moment before exhaling." – Hope Town

"Higgins turned his cruiser into the lot and pulled into an empty space to the right." – Ohrwurm

"Paul Ellerbee glanced up when he heard it announced the train was entering South Station." – Adamson's Rock

But that research only revealed perhaps another habit, a penchant for beginning things with my protagonist doing something: dragging, turning, glancing. But a peek at "Applewood" revealed that too may not be a problem:

"It was ten-twenty five on a Friday morning in late March when the highway worker happened upon the body, halfway down a small incline and off in a shallow wooded area by the side of the road."

What does any of this mean? I don't know. In fact, I don't even know that what I excerpted above will even be the opening of the pirate novel.

But I do know that, in this instance, the weather is important. The howling waves, the swirling currents, the churning eddies and --most importantly -- the scouring of the sea floor are integral to what happens next.

So maybe opening with the weather isn't the worst sin imaginable.

I mean, it's not as if it's all a dream.


Aaron Polson said...

One of my favorite stories from my personal catalog starts with the weather, but the weather is an integral part of the tale. Seems like it is with your WIP, too.

Rules were meant to be shattered by practiced hands. Go for it.

Brendan P. Myers said...

Still practicing, but Amen! And thanks.

cebonvini said...

After reading that opening paragraph I was reaching for the Dimenhydrinate!

Brendan said...

Checks Google . . . determines it's not a male enhancement product . . . breathes sigh of relief.

(And thanks!)