When I came outside this morning, the air seemed sharp in the June sunshine, and the heat was a shock to my system.
What struck me, along with hot air, was that I had been in retreat from such weather: I’d been working on my unfinished detective story. It takes place in Valparaiso, Ind., during the winter of 1983. I’m in the process of deciding on a new title, but the original title is “Murder in the Lake-Effect Snowstorm.” (Trouble is, I can’t decide how I’d prove the murder did take place during a snowstorm, even in “Valpo” in January.)
Setting, in the sense of a setting for a book, is not just its place — it’s also the time of the story. “Valpo” in June or September is a very different place from the blizzard-created drifts of January which make the city and its university look far hillier than it is.
As regular readers of these posts may remember, my unfinished story is narrated by Daisy MacDonald, whose roommate is murdered in Chapter 1. Daisy is still on campus, helping city police officer Mike Hossa investigate.
Here’s a draft of a scene I’m working on. I hope it’ll cool you off, as it does me. I haven’t worked on this part since it was last this hot, since I was setting up earlier points in the story, but now I have a place for it. (That’s what I was working on this morning, planning out all of the snowy days of the story.)
“The snow really came down during the service,” said Mike as we came out of the chapel.
Everything around us was white.
“I can’t even see the curbs anymore!” I said.
“Yes, and it’s still snowing,” said Mike. “There’s nothing else planned until lunch, right?”
“Not anymore,” I said. After all, it was past 10 a.m. “Let’s just get inside and do homework.”
“I’ve got some homework to do myself,” he said. “Janice was going to tell me about scouting.”
I had just wound my scarf around my face to fight the wind, but I pulled it off.
“Mike!” I said. “Scouts have scout knives!”
“Even Girl Scouts?” he said.
I nodded, and we walked out onto the open tundra towards Brandt Hall.
The tundra was such wide-open country then that it was impossible to judge the snow during storms.
I learned that the hard way just then.
I lost my footing in the snowdrifts and slid down hard on my left knee, then onto my rear end as I tried to fight. Somehow, my purse stayed on my shoulder.
Mike and I called each other’s names as I fell.
I tried to get my left foot up, but the snow was too wet and slippery — so slippery that I felt cold around my waistband. So much for the ski jacket this week, I thought. I longed for my big tartan shawl.
My neck hurt from trying to keep my head out of the snow. My pride hurt more.
“Daisy!” Mike said again. “Come on, get out of that mess!”
In today’s weather, I don’t want to get out of that mess of wet, slippery snow. I want back into it. I have other things to do today, having worked on Saturday, but I’ll do my errands with my characters playing again in my mind.
I’ll play in the snow with them.
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