Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

“It Was A Dark And Stormy Night…” ~ Writers’ Weather

Whether or not you write, you’ve experienced “Writers’ Weather”—the bright dawning of a day’s enlightenment from reading a positive plot resolution—the dark clouds of a character’s emotional upheaval—the desert-dry angst of yet another impossible challenge in the pages of a story

My favorite author, C. J. Cherryh, has said:

“Stories aren’t escape. They’re the living of an active mind.”

And, beyond things like the dry-leaved memories of a tale of impossible sadness lies the “Weather” in the active mind of the writer.

If the writer can’t feel the seasonal and diurnal changes of atmosphere, the reader’s experience will be all drought and drouth

Then, consider the lightning and thunder in the writer’s consciousness when their Larger Mind delivers completely unexpected material.

Some writers can’t weather changes like this—stop writing

Then, the drought and drouth during the writing process—often called a block but really a phase, a spell that invariably leads to more active atmospherics, if the writer writes-through the dearth

Look at the etymology:

Dearth – mid-13c., derthe “scarcity” (originally used of famines, when food was costly because scarce; extended to other situations of scarcity from early 14c.), abstract noun formed from root of O.E. deore “precious, costly” (see dear) + -th. Common Germanic formation, though not always with the same sense (cf. O.S. diurtha “splendor, glory, love,” M.Du. dierte, Du. duurte, O.H.G. tiurida “glory”).

Logically, a dearth can’t exist without the existence of plenty—somewhere

Then, the soft-flowing streams of inspiration surrounded by a refreshing mist of coursing sentences

The noon-day brilliance of the denouement

Sure, sometimes a writer needs to wear a raincoat, or plant a lightning-rod, or carry a canteen, or slog through mud, or persist in writing the driest of words to keep moving till the mirage of plot-flow resolves itself into the Sea of Wonder…

Mixed metaphors can be fun :-)

One thing about weather—it’s always changing

What have you had to weather in your writing world?
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12 responses to ““It Was A Dark And Stormy Night…” ~ Writers’ Weather

  1. janedarntonwatson August 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I love your definition of ‘dearth’ – that it also implies ‘plenty’ -:) Hanging on to that idea! Leonard Cohen had writers’ block after he became famous and retreated to a zen monastery to try and find his purpose again…He wrote a poem about it, which subsequently became the song, ‘If It Be Your Will’-
    In that poem he used the metaphor of the ‘river’ filling again, – interesting how drought, water, rivers, seems to be natural images for the creative process…as does ‘weather’ as well in your blog here. I also love it when you say: “consider the lightning and thunder in the writer’s consciousness when their Larger Mind delivers completely unexpected material.” Putting up a lightening rod so my larger mind can zap through me, right now!


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Go for it, Jane!!

      Thanks for the Cohen link :-)


  2. Barbara Blackcinder August 12, 2012 at 8:08 am

    I totally agree with all of the points made in the article, and in particular those that Jane pointed out.
    But I have one question: The classic defining line of a writer; “It was a dark and stormy night.”, who actually wrote that and put it where everyone would eventually see it? Surely it wasn’t Snoopy? Or was it?


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 12, 2012 at 9:33 am

      Wikipedia to the rescue:

      “”It was a dark and stormy night” is an infamous phrase written by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton at the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.”

      Here’s the whole first sentence of that novel:

      “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

      “It is also the start of the 1902 novel The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs. Its opening sentence is:

      “It was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled and twigs and leaves scuffled and rattled past the house. Mr and Mrs White sat in the parlour of their cosy home, in front of a blazing fire. Mr White played chess with his only son, Herbert. His wife sat in a rocking chair knitting and watching as they played.”


    • SoupJonson (@SoupJonson) August 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      I realize Alex is correct, but I will always attribute that LINE to Snoopy!


  3. SoupJonson (@SoupJonson) August 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I love this idea of considering my eternal weather. I find myself weekly having clear perfect days, and often unfortunately facing some foggy stormy days.whic seem to halt the process. I will now at least identify with what is occuring and hope my writing will benefit as a result.


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      MicroWeather, perhaps, Soup?? :-)


  4. Barbara Blackcinder August 13, 2012 at 7:30 am

    My next novel is going to start, “It was a blazingly bright day. There was no wind and everything was still.” LOL


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      Whoot !!!


  5. Barbara Blackcinder August 13, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Thanks for doing the research for my simple question Alex (Snoopy).


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      No prob, Barb :-)


  6. janedarntonwatson August 13, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I can’t wait to read it Barbara! I love the beginning ;)


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