I’ve always been fascinated by winter. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I was born during the month of January. It could be because my parents were from northern Minnesota or that their ancestors all hailed from northern Europe. From my Wisconsin childhood, I recall snowbound winters and a few temperatures of 30 below, not wind chill. Whatever the reason for my fascination, even though I most enjoy the crisp, colorful months of autumn, I feel most at home in winter.
This year I should be ecstatic. Winter has walloped the land with blast after blast of vicious storms. The wicked weather has caused schools and highways to close. On ice-coated highways cars crash, and trucks jackknife. Downed power lines send tens of thousands into the black, cold night of an earlier time. Not good, but I never said that I liked winter, simply that it fascinates me.
I grew up hearing stories about the deep snows and blizzards of Minnesota. My grandparents and great-grandparents were farmers. In their youth on the northern plains, they had no central heat. Indoor plumbing consisted of a kitchen sink with running water. As a child, my mother attended a one-room schoolhouse where they warmed wet mittens and cold lunches on the wood burning stove. Imagine the smells created by that steamy mixture.
Maybe its because of these true stories that many of my own fictional tales are mainly set during the winter months. To me, the season signifies a time of change, and of conflict. In historical works especially, life is a continual struggle. While the primary trouble in my stories is always between people, winter provides a great background. It adds conflict to an already conflicted tale.
Weather of any kind helps to set a mood in stories. It adds to the realism. It can be the gentle touch of a spring rain, the glaring heat of July’s sun, or the whipping winds of winter. Generally, winter works best for me.
Writers, think of your own stories. Do you have a recurring season that inspires your work? Please share. ∞