While I am traveling today, we have guest blogger Melanie Wells, author of When the Day of Evil Comes and Soul Hunter. Take it away, Melanie . . .
Alright – the heat. Let’s talk about the heat. Let’s talk about heat and writing. Many great writers have written while it’s hot. Hemingway had a thing for tropical weather. Eudora Welty lived in Jackson, Mississippi. I don’t need to add anything to that, do I? In fact, all the great southern writers, at least the ones who were writing before about 1960, probably did it without air conditioning. (I will refrain from discussing typewriters vs. computers – that’s for another day. But Eudora Welty used to cut her stories into strips and tape them all over her house to restructure the manuscript. Let’s all bow our heads and thank Jesus for computers.)
* Pause here for a moment of silence *
Okay - I live in the south, and may I just say, it’s hot here? It was 104 degrees today. So I got in my car today, and this little plastic thingy had actually melted off the dashboard. That’s how hot it was in Dallas today. Will somebody please tell me what this is about? Is Al Gore right? (He is, I think – have you seen his charts?)
Whether he is or isn’t, I’ve been thinking that heat should produce great writing. Great writers – or at least writers who aspire to be great – use the heat to bake an idea. Adversity breeds creativity. There’s something moving about sitting at the keyboard, t-shirt a little damp, hair up off your neck, glasses on, pounding away. It’s like boxing. Those guys are always sweating. You look at them and you KNOW they’re working hard.
Heat should be in great writing. Raise your hand if you sweated through every page of Heart of Darkness. My characters sweat. I like to make them sweat. If you don’t let them sweat, you’re protecting them too much and no one will care what happens to them.
It’s sort of a Zen thing, really. BE the heat. Be one with the heat and maybe you can use it to bake you. Or bake your story. Or bake your characters. Or melt that little thingy off your dashboard. When I walk out into the oven that is my parking lot at work and smell the pollution and feel my ozone headache begin to throb behind my eyes, I try to think about translating that feeling, that horrid, sweltering moment, into fiction. Slapping it down on the page and helping my readers smell the pollution too.
If nothing else, writers should be great observers. To feel the heat is to measure its effect on you and on the world around you. And then to share the sweat. It’s one thing we all have in common.
God likes to turn up the heat on us, too. He uses the heat to make us sweat. And then He wipes the sweat from our brows and hands us a fan and says “get used to it.”
At any rate, I’m tired of the heat. I’ve gotten everything out of it I care to.
I’m ready to smell the rain.