10.15.2020

When It Pours

A writer is constantly hunting for details to fill up a book. Most people act upon their circumstances, while the writer must observe them in order to act: to put words on paper. Such observations often concern people’s interactions, but a full-colored novel contains details of a character’s surroundings. In a way, the lack of those details shows a person’s inclination to act, while writing remains a sideline. 

A common event in our lives that makes this point is rain. This weather phenomenon occurs frequently, and yet it appears usually as a contributing element of an action-based climax. Oh, how I hate the rain, and now I have to save lives in it! I am reminded of John Lennon’s mocking words about what people do when it rains: “They run and hide their heads/They might as well be dead.” 

If you are to be a writer, you can start by getting wet. That entails overcoming several good reasons why people run. The most basic is the dislike of having to shutter your eyes against the falling wetness. It is unpleasant to be forced to look downward. Yet people manage, by resorting to such devices as wearing a cap with a bill. Another complaint is getting your clothes wet. Yet people at ball games and playgrounds wear slickers and ponchos. To be honest, some of the times when I felt most free have come when I was totally soaked, beyond all hope of ever escaping the storm.

Once you have liberated yourself from quotidian concerns, you’ll discover the details of how the rain alters your world. That is important, because you’re trying to find unique details for your book. Whether you’re describing raindrops on a spiderweb or a collapsed sand castle or a washout in a gully, you’re including striking images that break the norm. Different types of rain can produce different physical reactions, such as pain while being stung by hail.

The descriptions can expand into the metaphysical realm as well. The rain beating down can lead to feelings of oppression or gloom. Nothing’s going right for that character. A rivulet of rain running off the bill of said cap can express a parent’s frustration with their child’s madcap coach. Drinking in the rain, with the bottle in the sodden brown bag, can describe a character’s low ebb.

All sorts of ideas can come to you while standing out in the rain. You’re not thinking of your comfort. You’re thinking of your book. 

Exercise: The effects of rain can produce the sort of pinpoint details that lock the reader inside your made-up world. Raindrops are minute: to describe them, you have to look really hard. Rain too can produce odd-looking shapes that lend themselves to metaphors, like a sodden incline resembling an old man’s face. That is what will startle the reader into recognition.

“The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself.”          —Bertrand Russell

Copyright @ 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.