The Structure of a Tucson June

This week we’re talking about where we live (or have lived) and how that influenced our books.

This topic’s an easy one for me because Ghadid wouldn’t exist if I’d never moved to Arizona. Every story I’ve written has reflected the place I was living at the time, from swampy, buggy, storm-brewing Florida to gray and damp and otherworldly Seattle to arid yet surprisingly vibrant Arizona.

When I describe the oppressive sun, the stones casting off heat long after sunset, the overheated smells of a city in desperate need of a shower, the dizzingly wide breadth of sky, the desiccating cling of dust, the way everything seems to slow down to a treacle-drip of single-minded anticipation in the days and weeks leading up to the first storm in July –

I’m describing Tucson. Specifically, Tucson in June.

I already went in depth over at My Favorite Bit on Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog about the weather aspect, so instead I’m going to take a detour and geek out about structure.

But wait, Kai – you say – what the heck does weather or place have to do with structure??

Well usually probably not much, but in the case of The Perfect Assassin, I modeled the structure of the story on the structure of a Tucson June.

June is such an interesting month in Tucson. It’s arguably the hottest and most miserable month in the Sonoran Desert, but there’s a promise at the end of each day: that soon, soon the heat will break and the storms will come. But first it gets really, ridiculously hot. And then it gets worse: it gets humid. And then it gets worse.

Because June teases you. It gives you clouds. It gives you hope, just on the edge of the horizon. But you never know when those clouds will grow into storms and finally break the heat. It becomes a bit of a game to endure the anguish of mid-June, guessing when and how thoroughly the heat will break.

And often, June will give you a storm, only to drag you back into the waiting and the hoping. The sky dries up and you’re back where you were the night before, only less patient. A little more desperate. Still unsure when the storms will come, but knowing they will.

If you mapped out the plot beats of TPA, they’d match up perfectly with the steadily drumming heat and agonizing last days of June, including those false storms, those moments wondering when, when, when, all the way up to that first/final crescendo of lightning and thunder and the disorienting days after.

Some writers use songs as their story structure; I used weather.

Author: K.A. Doore

K.A. Doore writes fantasy – mostly second world, mostly novels – with a touch of horror and a ton of adventure. Now she lives in Michigan with her one (1) small human and one (1) wife, but it's been a long road across the U.S. and back again to get here. The Perfect Assassin, is the first book in the Chronicles of Ghadid trilogy, is her debut.