A couple of days ago I wrote about not only the five senses, but an extra few which we can use in our writing to enhance the scene we’re working on – to emphasise characters’ feelings or predicaments, to describe a location, to add tension or drama…
One of these I mentioned is thermoception the sense of temperature; it can be written into a story to emphasise normality, an everyday part of a scene, or as an extreme to put the characters under pressure, or more subtly to hint that something is wrong. It could relate to a person’s temperature – when a character is ill or embarrassed or scared. It can be an enemy in itself – the stories of Arctic exploration for example, or people lost in a desert, or having fever dreams.
We are unconsciously aware of temperature most of the time, adjusting our situation to what is comfortable – almost without thinking about it – opening or closing windows, undoing or doing up buttons and zips, putting on or taking off hats, scarves, woolly socks… We do it, but do we get our characters to do these things as a show not tell – something as I’ve mentioned before, I’m just not very good at – although maybe I’m getting better as I thing about it more through writing here!
When I wrote about this before I mentioned the scene in ‘Return of the Native’ when Mrs Yeobright trudges across the heath in a fruitless attempt to talk to her son, and then has to trudge back in the heat of a real English summer because he’s asleep and doesn’t hear her knocking, and her daughter in law has fled into the garden when she glimpsed her through the window. The book I am reading at present, another by Nevada Barr, Endangered Species is set on an island just off the coast of Georgia in the USA, and the heat and humidity impact on the investigation of a crime.
So how has heat or cold influenced me today?
- I woke and threw off the covers
- after a few minutes I began to shiver slightly and pulled them back on again
- I went downstairs to make some tea and hurried because the kitchen was very cold
- I got dressed and pulled on a jumper because it’s February and going to be cold, even if it’s sunny and bright
- I put on a winter jacket, ditto above
- I went out to the car and the sun was really pleasant and I felt mildly annoyed because I was going to be uncomfortable in the jacket
- I was driving along and turned off the heating and opened the window and enjoyed the air
- I parked up and went shopping – first of all in the covered shopping centre; the temperature was well controlled even in the shops and I felt comfortable – and even though I hate shopping for clothes I managed it
- I went out of the shopping centre and the air was chill and fresh, the sun not quite warm enough in among the buildings, but it was pleasant enough to walk along without my coat done up
- I went into a shop and was immediately blasted with hot air; all the shoppers were dressed for winter, the staff were in light shirts and sleeveless tops
- I rushed out of the overbearing atmosphere and returned to the car
- I drove along the seafront with the windows open again – the air cool on my skin and I felt pleased with my mission – accomplished!
I haven’t tried to write this as I might in a story – but it’s interesting to see even in this short account how I was affected by temperature, affected in my mood as well as in my physical comfort!
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