Ellen Million (ellenmillion) wrote in torn_world,
Ellen Million
ellenmillion
torn_world

Writer's Handbook for the North... Seasons

I've been working (with Elizabeth!) on an article for writers setting stories in the North, and figured I could post WIP bits from it as I finish sections - for general input, and to maybe spark some ideas. :) I'd like to make this a weekly Wednesday feature of our Livejournal!

Also, a reminder, our Muse Fusion is the last weekend in September! (Sketch Fest is this weekend, you're welcome to join us!) Our multi-part contest also ends that weekend - we're looking for portraits for unpictured characters, stories and poetry about Torn World temporal features, and imaginary books! Details at the forum: http://tornworld.net/forum/



  • What time of year is your story set?

    Although the North is an arctic setting, there are still seasons, and some of the changes of these seasons will play a vital role in everyday life.

    Spring is short! Blink and you will miss 'green-up,' the day (sometimes just one!) that all the trees burst into leaf. People will be excited by the return of green things, in their diet and outside, and by the return of the light after a long, dark winter. In the spring, there will be snow-unicorn calves, harvesting of early greens, brushing the winter coats out of the snow-unicorns (Festival of Combs), watching for the snow to melt and ice to 'break up' (travel over ice becomes quite hazardous!), and packing to go out to summer gather places.

    Every spring, after most of the snow has receded, the villages scatter out to the best harvest places, setting up basecamps near areas of good resources. A few people remain behind at their home villages to do summer tasks there, but most will reunite with friends from other villages and join in harvesting at summer gathers. The locations of summer gather places changes from year to year, so that no one place is over-harvested or damaged by the presence of the people.

    Summers, though short, are mild and comfortable, with lots of green growing things, summer storms, and warm breezes. You may not find Northerners lounging in bikinis, but they may wear short sleeves on a sunny day, or even go barefoot. Streams will still be frigidly cold, but lakes and ponds may be warm enough for swimming, especially later in the season. Activities you'll find in summer include gathering greens and berries, hunting, fishing, and harvesting peat and wood for heating through the winter.

    One of the very distinct things about summer in the north is the daylight - there isn't a dark night! The sun stays in the sky all the way through the night for several tendays around solstice, and the sky will remain a bright twilight through the night for many tendays on either side of that because even when the sun is below the horizon, it isn't far below. There will be no stargazing in the summer, and avoid writing cues like 'it was getting dark, so it was time to return to the village'. Avoid setting night time activities in the dark - dim and twilight are as dark as you will get during any summer nights. Many people find this midnight sun very energizing and want to stay up and work longer hours than they do when the light gives 'night time' cues.

    Fall comes just as quickly as spring, with sharp frosts, brilliant colors, and then snow. Early signs of fall mean packing up the summer gather sites and returning to home villages. Fall activities include gathering and preserving food, and settling the village back together for the long winter. There is usually a strong 'run' of fish right before fall, and most villagers at the gather sites around rivers will be involved in catching and processing these fish.

    Once hard freezes hit, they rarely leave. Melting temperature days in the winter are rare and dangerous, because things become slick and heavy with ice. Usually, once the snow first 'sticks,' it doesn't leave, piling higher and higher through the winter. At the coast (Itadesh or Itakith) the snow will be wetter and heavier, and may come all at once. Inland, the snow is drier and lighter and comes in smaller doses, though it will still add up to a lot of snow! Accumulations can be as much as 12 feet along the coast, and 6 feet inland, with more in the mountains. Temperatures range from slightly below freezing to bitingly cold (-60 F), and people will dress accordingly and still go out in most weather. Windstorms with blowing snow that reduce visibility are more likely to keep people in than cold temperatures. Ice fog may occur in cold, still conditions, especially in low valleys.

    Winter is as dark as the summer is light. For several tendays around solstice, the sun will not be seen at all. Once sunlight returns, there is a celebration, Flower Day, when people make each other colorful flowers from paper, fur or wool and gift them to each other as a reminder that even the winter will end. Winter days on either side of this dark period will be short, and may be gray and cloudy (with or without falling snow), or bright and clear, with very blue skies and piercing sun. 'Snow blindness' is a very real hazard, because the sun is at a very low angle, and bouncing off of ice crystals. Because of the angle of the sun, a long sunrise may run straight into a slow sunset - the sky will often be brilliant colors as long as there is light.

    Winter activities include indoor crafting - knitting is a common task that almost everyone can do and is in high demand. Other indoor activities include weaving, toolmaking, carving, tending to fires, melting ice (which needs to be done frequently!), and leatherworking. Storytelling and entertainment are in high demand during the long winter hours when people are stuck inside, and there will be music-making and dancing often. Outdoor activities include care of the snow-unicorns, clearing snow from common paths, trapping (animals have the best coats in winter!) and ice-fishing.
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