This is a blog I posted on my website a couple of months ago (www.marjamcgraw.com). I thought someone might enjoy it.

Opening a story with “It was a dark and stormy night” has become kind of joke to some. Many say it’s too much of a cliché to use in a story. Okay, so how about, “It was a dark and stormy day”? Maybe that’s not quite such a cliché, but it certainly isn’t (probably) going to be as scary as a night scene.

Well, I live in Northern Arizona, and we had a monsoon storm of good proportions today. It started around six o’clock this morning, and although the sun is out for the moment, it looks like there’s more to come. The rain came down by the bucketful. (I can exaggerate like that because that’s what I do for a living.) However, it did rain pretty hard for quite some time. The lightning and thunder were awesome to see and hear. At one point there was lightning all around us, which meant there were constant strikes and the thunder was continuous. It sounded like it rolled from one side of the sky to the other. The storm was directly overhead for awhile, and the thunder actually cracked before it boomed. Our electricity went off for several hours, too, which very rarely happens in our neighborhood. Sounds like the setting for a story to me, but it should have happened after dark. And it did, not too long ago. This is our monsoon season.

If the electricity hadn’t gone out, I would have put a movie in the DVD player, and guess what? It would have been a mystery that started out on a dark and stormy night. It would have been appropriate to what we were experiencing firsthand. What could be more mysterious and suspenseful than a dark night, loud thunder, and a sudden scream? Well, probably a lot of things, but I would have enjoyed it. Somehow a bright and sunny day just doesn’t say mystery to me. Mind you, I’m talking about the plus side of the stormy night in a mystery, not the plus side of the beautiful day. I’ll leave that for a different blog. Menacing things can certainly happen during the daylight hours.

I mean, really, think about it. If there’s a sudden knock at your back door when you’re not expecting anyone, is it going to be more suspenseful during the day? Or at night, during a storm, when the back porch light has burned out? And you live in the country, far from your neighbors – or you live in a nice neighborhood, but your neighbors aren’t home. The scenarios are endless during nasty weather.

Maybe your vehicle has broken down on a lonely road, and a black car pulls up behind you with its lights out. And just maybe he nudges your car with his front bumper. Uh oh. You see someone exit the car in your rearview mirror. He’s wearing a hoody and you can’t see his face – and he walks funny. Is he a bad guy, or is he a bad driver with a sprained ankle who happens to be wearing a hooded sweatshirt and really wants to help you?

Watch some vintage mysteries. Many of them start out with a storm and pouring rain. It adds to the suspense. Oh, yes, it really does.

Anyway, after sitting through the storm today, dark and stormy nights were really on my mind. Just thought I’d mention it.

Until next time, wishing you bright and sunny days with no strangers showing up at your back door unannounced.

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Tags: Marja, McGraw, Mystery, blog, humor, mystery, storms

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Comment by Marja McGraw on November 22, 2010 at 3:04pm
Well, Jack, I guess only time will tell. I had to chuckle because a dark and steamy night sounds like something out of a romance. And there's nothing I enjoy more than a touch of humor.
Comment by jack everett on November 22, 2010 at 2:41am
I think you have started something here Marja, how about misquoting cliches for titles and in writing for effect? Your dark and stormy night could become dark and steamy. Live and learn could become die to learn and what goes around comes around could become what goes around comes back square. I'm sure people will think up better examples but it could prove an effective way of adding bite or humor.

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