So, it has snowed here twice this week and last night was bitterly cold. Personally, I don’t mind the cold and snow. I even enjoy going out to the nearby mountains and snowshoeing in it when it gets deep enough. It’s something I hope to share with my daughter in the future when she’s old enough.
This morning as I sipped my coffee and looked out the window, and reassured my wife that we were indeed no snowed in despite her proclamations to the contrary, the fresh snow got my imagination going.
Some of my favorite works of fiction involve the snow/winter. In particular John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ comes to mind. The isolation and perilous conditions of the setting works brilliantly to amplify the tension of their situation. Another one is Stephen King’s The Shining. Although there are plenty of other aspects to the story that are a threat to the characters, the snow and ungodly cold again enchance the dread and sense of hopeless isolation that helps make the story more terrifying. Jack London often used the theme of ‘man vs nature’ in his stories and novels like Call of the Wild and White Fang are good examples of this. If he’d set the stories in his home of the San Francisco/Oakland area of California it wouldn’t have had the same power as setting them in the Klondike.
In either case if they’d been stuck at a tropical resort or some such the story wouldn’t have the same feel. In a lot of ways the setting/environment of a story is very much a character, often an antagonist, that is sometimes overlooked. But the proper setting/environment of a story can amplify the emotional turmoil and/or the physical threats. A good setting is much more then window dressing.
So, as winter arrives at my doorstep I may grudgingly sweep the snow from my car and scrape ice from my windshield but the reward is that my imagination has definitely found a worthy muse. In fact I have a bit of a story idea rattling around my head as I write which I may share here when its complete.