In my novels I like to have some action – in the novels i read and most certainly in the novels I write Quite often the main character is struggling with something elemental, or a past conflict has been involved in some natural setting which contributes to the struggle.
In my first published novel, Farholm, it was set on an island; a scene takes in a dense fog – a scene of emotional and mental struggle takes place ion a heavy fog, a physical struggle takes place in the sea on an incoming tide. A fight, literally to the death occurs in ‘The Stalking of Rose Czekov’ takes place as a storm rages all around:
There was another blinding flash and thunder rolled above as if cascading rocks down from heaven. The woman tore herself away and ran for her life.
Barefoot she raced across the gravel without looking back, expecting the thud of a bullet or the clutch of a hand in her hair or round her throat. She reached the lime-kiln and cowered among the tumble of debris and broken bricks and stone.
The rain was falling in curtains and she could see nothing in the foul miasma, hear nothing above the howl of the wind and the rage of the sea. In another brilliant flash the world was illuminated in neon radiance under a sheet of lightning that seemed spread from horizon to horizon. In those dazzling seconds she saw two figures locked in a murderous embrace pushing each other up against the seawall as the waves rolled over them, crashing down and hiding them.
She blinked, blinded by the streaming rain and the lightening and then it was dark and there was a strange earth-shaking, dragging roar of noise, a howling, anguished, tearing sound. The ground seemed to tremble and heave and something seemed to have happened to the shape of the land.
Lightening sheeted for a third time, brighter than day and the wall had gone, collapsed into the sea, and the two men were no longer there.
I seem to have a liking for storms in my writing – I do actually like them in reality – inside safe and warm looking out, or even outside with the elements raging around – there is another mighty storm in ‘night vision’ but Beulah Cameron (who appears in my latest novel, Saltpans) is safe inside her car – however she has just been insulted and betrayed by her husband and her storm of emotion seems magnified by what is happening outside.
The storm unleashed its torrential worst. She had some gloomy satisfaction in the sound of the roaring wind which buffeted the car, screaming and whistling through the boats’ rigging. Deafening thunder cracked and rolled above her and the sheets of viridian lightning matched her despair. She tried to remember Lear’s rage, tried to recall his anguished words, to block out her own thoughts.
The night was full of strange and deafening noises, crashes and bangs as invisible things were tossed about in the boat yard. She should have been frightened but she was beyond fear.
… and later when she has been rejected by her closest and dearest friend, in the same boatyard where the scene above took place
The rain was flooding down, sheeting down the windows. Beulah felt trapped, panicked by claustrophobia. Her mind seethed, filled with pain. She switched on the wipers as if they could clear her brain as well as the screen. She opened the window, she was burning hot.
“You’ve made a mistake, you’ve got it wrong, he wouldn’t do this,” she said.Rain was blowing in and she tried to focus on the physical to blot out what her mind was screaming. “Listen to the rain, the sound of the wind, the halyards rattling, the sea roaring,” she was almost hysterical.
There are plenty of watery, stormy sea episodes in ‘The Double Act’ – in the final scene the main characters are held prison on a tiny off-shore island as the sea boils and rages around it, but one of the most crucial scenes takes place in a sea fog, where everything is hidden and secret. However, a different natural even is key to the events in ‘Lucky Portbraddon’, a family are trapped – quite comfortably, in grandma’s large house up on the moors in the snow.
The Portbraddons are besieged by snow and ice but all is well until one of the little children goes out in the evening, in search of Father Christmas’s reindeer. Her brother and two women go in search, out across the fields, as the others search the grounds and garden.
They were approaching the trees, bounded by a snow-covered wall and the two women went one way and Noah the other. He’d hardly gone a couple of dozen yards when he called to them and they clambered over the wall following the small footprints he’d found. An obvious thought struck Ismène; Bella was Noah’s sister, no wonder he’d come with them, no wonder he’d carried Cressie so easily.
They spread out as they searched, calling her name as they wandered. It was very quiet under the trees and their voices echoed. Occasionally there was the snap of something breaking; it spooked Ismène and she remembered her sinister hallucination, and was filled with a sense of foreboding.
In the snow deadened silence, broken only by unidentifiable cracks and splintering noises, the thud and thump of a mass of snow falling, the wood seemed creepy and dangerous.
In my Thomas Radwinter adventures, Thomas gets himself in plenty of pickles as he describes it. Snow, raging sea, storms, earthquakes, tidal surges… and for a while I’ve had thoughts of a scene where the building he is in catches fire. I know how the reek of smoke lingers on despite washing and bathing and cleaning, and I have this idea of him being troubled afterwards by the imagined smell of burning which triggers understandable fear and horror. However, the thought of fire and what terrible harm and damage it can do is quite challenging… It will take some mental gearing up to tackle writing scenes about a conflagration, and the aftermath…
If you haven’t yet read the books I’ve mentioned above, ‘Farholm’, ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’ and ‘Lucky Portbraddon’, or my Radwinter stories, here is a link: