Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Weather Patterns Track Like a Good Novel: Characters Deal with the Storms of Life

February 2019: Florida
Recently, I enjoyed a couple of weeks in Florida I loved the warm weather and was saddened to return to a chilly start to spring in Ohio. I am fascinated by weather patterns.

I tracked last year’s hurricane season with what I’d call “educated interest.” You see, I spent my formative years in Tampa. Hurricanes were a part of life.

Native Floridians and locals, at least those who have lived there for a great while, respect the storms. They are, however less intimidated by hurricanes than people watching from the outside. In fact, I’ve heard old timers say, “The water’s too low. We need a good hurricane.” 

“Northern Transplants” tend to worry over the storms the first year or two, but slowly settle into the rhythm of the season. Shelters are open and full from time-to-time with an array of people making their home in the Sunshine State. Rarely do Snow Birds worry over the storms since they are likely somewhere in Ohio or Michigan during the hurricane season. They’re playing with their grandchildren and watching the weather reports with a sigh and a “glad we’re not there now” attitude.

Spring Has Arrived in Florida
I’ve found this is true in the opposite direction as well. My Florida family will cringe when I mention we have snow. Even the lightest dusting of snow conjures up a blizzard in their minds. They shiver and wonder why anyone would choose to live in the north. 

This year, however, as I watch the weather patterns of summer in the south and winter in the north, it is with a different perspective. I watch as a writer. No, I’m not contemplating a story about natural disasters. 

I have been working on a suspense novel. I have my protagonists, I have an emotionally injured antagonist and a detective working on a missing persons case. I have a plot and a few subplots. I’m throwing some red herrings in here and there to keep the reader wondering who is at risk and who is the culprit. Even I can get lost in the tangle of words and story lines. 

I am busy typing away when I look up at the television weather report. The storm tracking system offers an array of possible scenarios. What catches my attention is the graphic on the news. 

March in Ohio 2019
As I study the image, I realize it is a template of my book. 

The seemingly harmless wind and flurries from the west will likely turn into something frightening and unpredictable. The possibility of power outages in outlying areas, like subplots, leave me like a reader a bit uncomfortable but knowing all will be well in the end. And then there is the sudden drop in temperatures.  I look outside. It is totally calm. Still. Quiet. Safe. I build a fire in the fireplace.

I watch. Nothing happens…until there is one flurry. Then two. I go to sleep under a quilt my grandmother made and wake up to a blanket of white on my lawn. It is March and the snow is not welcome. Much like Florida when the powerful wind…full of rain and the county next door’s stripped shingles and shattered trees move across the state, my heart races and I cry, “Mercy.”

And then…as quickly as it came, it leaves. We pick up our lives (or in this case, the characters in the book), shake off the innocence we once had about the storms of life, and move forward forever changed.

But that’s me. Other people probably just saw a storm.

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