A Victorian novelist, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, famously started a book with the words ‘it was a dark and stormy night’. Ever since poor EBL wrote that phrase, people have been giggling about it. To be fair, it’s not all that bad, but it has become a byword for lazy and cliched writing.
In the wonderful Snoopy cartoons, Snoopy is often seen sitting on top of his kennel with a typewriter, tapping out the novel he’s writing. The same line always comes up – ‘it was a dark and stormy night’. The incomparable Ahlbergs wrote a children’s book, ‘A Dark and Stormy Night’ complete with brigands, ne’er-do-wells, and, yes, a dark and stormy night. At present I’m writing a book with some extreme weather in it and it takes careful thought to get it right. What does it feel like when the icy rain is flying right into your face? When you open the front door and the wind blows you back into the house, exactly what makes that come alive?
What brought this to mind was that last night really was dark and stormy. I mean, of course it was dark, it’s the middle of March so it’s bound to be dark at night, but the wind was blowing a hooly out there. I went to bed with a book and listened to the weather throwing wild parties outside.
Step Two, for those who want something for their creative imagination to play with. You’re in your bed, while outside the wind does its wild, unpredictable, sweeping dance. But then there are no walls around you, just a magic box which the storm sweeps up and you’re carried away into the sky to dance with the stars – or look down on the oceans, or…?