Recreating the seasons in fiction


Last winter, whilst missing green willows, dangling their branches in the Cam, and cattle out grazing on the commons, I wrote a story set in Cambridge in summer. It was fun to transport myself to the season of long, lazy days, but of course, I had to remember a lot, to get the atmosphere right.

Midsummer Common, May
Now, low and behold, it’s summer in Cambridge, and I’m busy trying to write a story set in the run-up to midwinter… Well, I didn’t want to do the same time of year twice in a row…
Parker’s Piece, February
So, once again, I’m having to think myself into another season, this time of roasted chestnuts, Salvation Army bands, and the like. Since I haven’t learned my lesson, I’m making prepations for similar situations in the future:
  • Sampler of days – a sentence or two, to sum up what particular days and locations smell, feel, sound and look like. I’ve added the odd photo/video, and have saved the lot in dated folders on my laptop.
  • Real-time prompts – smells/tastes that can be experienced at any time of year, to conjure up a season. (For autumn/winter so far I’ve got: an open fire (stifling…); oven-baked potatoes; fireworks; and the undefinable smell of Christmas decorations. And for summer: a barbecue; suntan lotion; freshly cut cucumber, mint, Pimms and creosote (not in the same glass).
  • Strongly atmospheric seasonal books, films and music – also helpful (and, a’hem, enjoyable…)

Obviously, I probably won’t have much time to do any actual writing…
And for that added touch of authenticity…
I have to share that I have found a site where you can buy evocative smells. I haven’t tried it, but (don’t think me weird) I’m sorely tempted. A sample bottle only costs £2.52 and there’s a very strange and wonderful range on offer (from the tempting Crusty Bread, to the sobering Chinchilla option). I like chinchillas as much as the next person, but I have no desire to own their bottled smell. Ah. I’ve just seen that you can get badger poo too. It’s clearly the smell equivalent of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans.
And, if I get sick of all this, I shall instead write super quickly, so that I can beat the system, and dream up new stories set in the season I’m currently experiencing…
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15 thoughts on “Recreating the seasons in fiction

  1. I've actually been having a lovely time, tbh! (I may have focussed in more on the eating and drinking aspects of the process than some other bits… 🙂 However, I will actually do some writing, too…

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  2. That is such a good idea to make a note of those things that remind you of the different seasons! I hope you used your notebook 😉 You could even create a Pinterest board if you felt so inclined…and had a few thousand hours to spare for the time suck it would take x

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