The Weather Outside is Frightful

December 25, 2009    

“It was a dark and stormy night…” There’s the cliche way to include weather in your writing and then there are a number of good ways to do it. We want the weather to add flavor, color the characters and even play the antagonist at times. What should be avoided is the reader skipping the first six paragraphs of every chapter because they don’t care about the spring birds or summer leaves.

Uploaded by brentbat

Beach and Pool During Storm

Generic, Happy Weather – If weather isn’t a key factor in your story, you may not need to include it at all. In some parts of the world or during some parts of the year, there are typically long stretches of generally nice days. Not too hot, not too cold and no buckets of rain/snow/locusts falling from the sky. Most people don’t care to comment on the weather when it’s unremarkable and neither would your characters. Spend time describing what they do care about.

Weather as a Big Bad – Nature is a harsh mistress and you can use storms, climate and more as one of the dangers in the story. The oppressive heat in deserts, the crushing weight of snow in an avalanche and house-dropping tornadoes are all imposing and life threatening. And unlike a larger-than-life evil genius, a storm won’t reveal its plans to you before leaving you alone to escape. No, you’ll just find yourself wishing for a parka.

Weather Sets the Tone – Weather is constantly changing and every storm is slightly different than the last. Many times, your characters won’t have a chance to stop to smell the roses but their day will be colored by the weather. It is perfectly reasonable for your heroine to wear sneakers with her business suit on a day where slush covers the ground. And it is also reasonable for her to be embarrassed when her boss comments on them before she has a chance to change. “Stupid sleet,” she might say before being grumpy all morning.

If you want to use weather to color your story and don’t know where to start, just look around. Note down the random things people say about the weather while riding in the elevator. Is your main character based on the gentleman who bags your groceries? Well then ask him how he fared during the snowpocalypse of 2009. The way a character reacts to bad weather speaks volumes about how they’ll react to other bad situations.