weather is a writer's best friend

7 Reasons Weather Is a Writer’s Friend

7 ways to improve your writing with weatherEver since Edward Bulwer-Lytton slapped readers with his infamous “dark and stormy night” line, writers everywhere have been leery of misusing weather in their stories.

After all, who among us wants a contest for the worst opening lines in fiction named after us?

But avoiding weather altogether is a mistake of its own. Weather offers all kinds of atmospheric, descriptive, and plot-advancing advantages.

Let’s a look at a few.

7 Ways Weather Improves Your Story

1. Sets the Mood

Ever notice how, in a movie, whenever a character receives bad news, it starts raining? Using weather to mirror the character’s attitude and set the tone can strengthen a scene’s emotional impact.

2. Offers Symbolism

To a character at war, snow at Christmastime might make him reminiscent about home (unless, of course, he grew up in Australia). Because weather and its rotation in the seasons is universal, it offers built-in value as a symbolic motif.

3. Raises the Stakes

All kinds of natural-disaster stories are built entirely around the weather’s ability to become life-threatening. You can also utilize nasty weather on a smaller scale to increase the stakes in any story. As April Henry put it in her July 2003 Writer’s Digest article “Build the Thrill,”

Life is complicated enough when the Mafia and the CIA want you dead, but what if you’re also trapped by a snowstorm in an isolated farmhouse without power?

4. Heightens the Tension

Let’s take that isolated-farmhouse-in-a-snowstorm example and say your character knows a serial killer is stalking the woods outside. Thanks to the weather, your character can’t get out—but, of course, the serial killer will want in. Readers won’t be able to look away.

5. Introduces Irony

A beautiful spring morning, complete with chirping birds, set on a muddy battlefield presents a contrast that brings all the details into sharper focus. Maybe your characters falls in love in the midst of a thunderstorm, or maybe they receive that batch of bad news on a sun-soaked beach.

6. Creates an Interesting Setting

Weather has the ability to take a scene from two-dimensional to interactive three-dimensional. It removes the sterility and forces characters and readers alike to feel the places in which they find themselves. Add rain, wind, snow, or humidity for extra spice in practically any setting.

7. Presents Evocative Imagery

In my historical western A Man Called Outlaw, I used a snowflake to not only reference a beautiful image, but to make an important statement about my character’s aloneness. Weather is visually striking, and that’s always an asset to a writer.

***

While utilizing these positive attributes of weather to bring your stories to life, make sure you remember the lesson offered by Bulwer-Lytton. Weather, like most description, is best delivered in small doses, interspersed with the action and dialogue, and offered only when important.

Readers won’t let you get away with long paragraphs describing the rain trickling down the window—but they will appreciate the glittering edge of vibrancy imparted to your story by the proper use of weather.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Have you read a story in which weather was used effectively? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. I look forward to reading Woolf one of these days, and now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ll keep an especial eye out for her use of weather.

  2. When writing, my ideas flow just like how the rain flows. I remember one time, when I came across professional author Delatorro’s book in >>http://bit.ly/eluyUl, my dream to write became clearer. It was a rainy day. =)

  3. Rainy days do have the capability to boost the imagination. There’s something mellow and soothing about the low light and the rhythm of the rain.

  4. In my novel, I use a raging blizzard to strand characters. There is nothing for them to do except sit by the fire and talk about the awful events that happened in the past to their families. How each of their families were forever bound to each other because of those events. When the characters begin to argue after finding out some unpleasant secrets, there is no where for them to go and escape from the truth. Unless they want to leave during a blizzard and freeze to death.

  5. Nice. The blizzard makes the necessities of your story logical and ups the stakes at the same time.

  6. Nice post. I can’t imagine NOT using weather. It is an important part of our everyday life. Unless a story takes place indoors, weather is a factor. It is part of the setting.

  7. Weather is awesome. Nothing brings an outdoor setting to life faster than even a brief reference to the weather.

  8. In the case of my WIP, weather’s actually a key part of the climax. A hurricane, specifically.

    This is why, when I did my worldbuilding for this fantasy story, I had to factor in a climate allowing for the formation of such things. So I have a land that’s Mediterranean-like.

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