Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Partly Cloudy With a Chance of Rain: Weather and Fiction

Have you ever thought about what weather adds to your story, or if it adds anything? Do you ever ask yourself it using weather is an effective way to influence a scene or a character's actions or reactions?  The answer is, you should.

Think about how many times in a movie or on TV, you've seen a character get some really bad news, while outside the sky is filled with thunder and lightning, and rain is slamming the windows.  A scene filled with drama and tension on the inside, and outside, the dark and stormy night ( or day) creates the proper mood in order to strengthen the emotional impact.  Isn't that what you want to do with your story?  Strengthen the emotional impact upon the reader?

Think about the other ways you can use weather to add excitement to your story.  How about irony?  Janie has just found out that her boyfriend has ditched her for her best friend.  She has been crying for hours.  Her face is red and patchy, her eyes are swollen, her throat is hoarse.  She feels alone and deserted by two of the most important people in her life.  But outside, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, her younger brother and sister are screaming and laughing with their friends.  Even the weather is against her.  In a scene like this, a bright, beautiful day can add more to the feeling of isolation  and despair for your MC than any rainstorm could possibly do.

Weather can create a life-threatening situation for your characters, also.  Suppose the MC and her boyfriend have gone sailing.  It's a cool, crisp, sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, just a mild enough breeze to make sailing great.  But before they realize what is happening, a terrible squall comes up.  The waves are huge, the wind is high, the kids don't know how to get the boat back into the bay, and even if they did, the weather wouldn't allow it.  What will happen?  Will the sailboat capsize?  Will they drown?

Weather can raise the stakes for your characters, and increase the tension for your readers.  Your MC has had a bad fight with her boyfriend, and she walks out of the high school dance alone.  She's crying, so she doesn't realize that what is known as "tulle fog" ( a real phenomenon in California) has come up.  She can't see two feet in front of her face.  She can't see the street lights or the cars as they come past her.  But she CAN hear the footsteps behind her, footsteps that slow down when she slows, speed up when she speeds up.  And she know there is a rapist/killer loose in town, who stalks and kidnaps girls her age.  Is this her boyfriend coming after her, or the killer, ready to pounce at any moment?  How can she tell, when the fog is so thick she not only can't see behind her, but her voice is silenced as though a heavy veil has been thrown over her face?

There are many ways to use weather to enrich your story.  It makes a scene become three-dimensional, rather than two.  It gives your characters the ability to feel the impact of what they are dealing with...and it surely gives you, the author, a fantastic chance to show what's happening, rather than tell what's happening.  Weather is important to any story, important in creating imagery for the reader, and important in exacting the thoughts and emotions of your characters.  Try it, you'll like it !

Until next time,
That's a wrap.


  1. That's very true. I guess I don't realise it, but I do use weather to heighten tension in my story. How bizarre.

    Lovely post, Mikki. And your blog looks bootiful. :-)

  2. I have to agree with Cat, this is a lovely post. I do think about weather in my writing, now. I didn't used too, though. Where was this post two years ago!