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For Authors

Using Summer to Add Depth and Dimension to Your Story

By: Ginger on June 28, 2024

Our Hidden Gems guest author for today.

By: Ginger on June 28, 2024


When woven into your narrative with finesse, a season like summer can become more than a mere backdrop—it can transform into a dynamic force within the story. Much like winter in Game of Thrones, where the relentless cold amplifies the harshness and isolation of the plot, summer, too, can infuse a story with its own distinct energy. Long hours of daylight, oppressive heat, and the unique sounds and smells of the year’s hottest season all become integral to the character’s journey, bringing your setting to life and adding richness to your story.

In this week’s blog, Ginger explores how the essence of summer can create a vivid and immersive environment that adds yet another dimension to your story. Through a variety of examples, he demonstrates how by tapping into the sensory richness of the season, you can evoke powerful emotions, mirror character development, and enhance thematic depth. Ultimately, summer can become an unforgettable character in its own right, leaving a lasting impression on your readers.

“Winter is coming,” warned Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, the first novel in George R. R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series – and come it certainly did! The blistering cold of The Wall served as a chilling (literally) backdrop to some of the most intense scenes in a very intense book series.

Likewise, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe captured generations of young minds when wartime evacuees Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie travel to a magical land covered in ice and snow. 

Winter has proven to be the setting for dozens of iconic books, demonstrating that the season in which your story unfolds plays a crucial role in shaping its atmosphere and mirroring the themes you weave within. A chilling winter backdrop can amplify feelings of isolation and hardship, while a vibrant spring setting can symbolize new beginnings and growth. 

The same is true for summer. With its extended daylight hours and carefree energy, summer offers a unique opportunity to create a vibrant and dynamic setting within your narrative.

Consider John Steinbeck’s classic, The Grapes of Wrath. The story follows the Joad family during the Great Depression as they journey westward in search of a better life. The tale is set during a blistering heatwave, and the oppressive heat becomes more than just a physical discomfort within the pages of the story. It mirrors the desperation and hardship the Joads face. The relentless sun, scorching dust storms, and the ever-present thirst become characters in themselves, adding a layer of urgency and desperation to their struggle.

In this article, I’m going to shed some (sun)light on the idea of using summer as the setting for your stories; and demonstrating some effective ways in which to do so.

Evoking the Essence of Summer

Summer is many people’s favorite season, and not without good reason. You can tap into people’s fondness for the season by evoking it in visceral ways within your narrative.

Use summer’s sensory details to paint a vivid picture for your reader. Capture the sights and sounds of the season – whether that’s the lazy buzz of cicadas, the vibrant hues of wildflowers bursting from meadows, or the fiery glow of an endless sunset shimmering over the ocean. With the right words, you can make it feel like the heat is radiating from the page.

Alternatively, don’t shy away from the less glamorous aspects of the summer heat. If you’re writing a grittier book, you could describe the way sweat clings to your characters’ skin, or the pungent aroma of freshly cut grass rotting beneath the blazing sun. In an urban setting, you could describe the overwhelming stench of a dumpster overflowing in the relentless heat; perhaps mirroring the less savory things your characters will encounter in your story.

The Power of Scent:

Dumpsters might actually be a good place to start, actually. When you’re trying to conjure a season for your story, scent is a great place to start. Summer has a distinct olfactory palette, and mentioning smells can trigger memories and feelings within your readers – for good, or for bad.

If you’re writing a romance, or a lighthearted adventure story, you could describe the heady fragrance of honeysuckle clinging to the evening air, the sweet scent of watermelon at a backyard barbecue, or the salty tang of the ocean breeze. 

Conversely, if you’re writing a gritty thriller, or a grim horror story, you might paint a more evocative picture by describing a stagnant city alleyway thick with the cloying stench of garbage rotting in the heat.

In any event, scent is one of the most powerful tools an author has to make a setting seem visceral and real to a reader; and summer is one of the most scent-filled seasons to write about.

The Physical Effects:

Summer’s warmth can evoke a range of emotions and reactions in your characters, and you should use those to help make a character’s choices and dialogue resonate more deeply. 

For example, you could describe the discomfort of sticky clothes clinging to sweaty skin, which might mirror a character’s feeling of discomfort or awkwardness. Likewise, describing the relief of a cool drink on a parched throat, or the sheer bliss of diving into a refreshing lake, can help evoke a sense of rebirth or recovery in a character’s story arc.

Again, using memories of summer that many of us are familiar with can help draw a reader into a more immersive fictional world; and make them more invested in the fate of your characters.

Beyond the Beach:

While beaches are a quintessential summer setting, summer’s influence can extend far beyond them. Capture the stifling heat of a bustling city, the lazy days spent exploring small-town streets, or the adventures that unfold during a summer camp. Whatever your setting, it becomes more alive when you bask it in the rays of a summer sun.

Summer’s Literary Legacy

Don’t just take my word for it! Many iconic novels have utilized summer as a potent narrative tool. Here are some of my favorite examples:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: The opulent summer soirées, dazzling with extravagant parties and lavish decorations, highlight the emptiness and moral decay lurking beneath the surface of the American Dream.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: The stifling heat of a small Southern town mirrors the racial tensions simmering beneath the surface. Scout’s childhood innocence stands in stark contrast to the prejudice and bigotry that permeates her surroundings.
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Ann Brashares’ coming-of-age story unfolds over a summer break – a time of freedom and exploration for the four teenage protagonists. The endless days provide the backdrop for their adventures, self-discovery, and the bittersweet pangs of growing up.

The Allure of a Summer Setting

Just like winter served as an evocative seasonal setting for Game of Thrones, setting your story during the summertime can create a more immersive and engaging experience for your reader.

Whether it’s the vibrant imagery, the physical sensations of heat and humidity, or the sense of carefree abandon that many of us remember from our childhood summers, writing about the sensory details of summertime can draw your readers deeper into the narrative; making them feel like they’re actually there. 

Summer also offers a unique opportunity to explore themes commonly associated with the season – such as freedom, growth, and the fleeting nature of time. 

Many authors don’t automatically think of the season as an important detail in their story, but it can make a massive difference to the atmosphere and emotions your book evokes with readers – so why not give it a try? Consider giving summer a starring role in your next story. You might just be surprised by the heat it brings to your narrative.

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About the Author

Our Hidden Gems guest author for today.

Ginger is also known as Roland Hulme - a digital Don Draper with a Hemingway complex. Under a penname, he's sold 65,000+ copies of his romance novels, and reached more than 320,000 readers through Kindle Unlimited - using his background in marketing, advertising, and social media to reach an ever-expanding audience. 

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