WEATHER is an important element in any setting, providing sensory texture and contributing to the mood the writer wishes to create in a scene. With a deft touch, weather can enhance the character’s emotional response to a specific location, it can add conflict, and it can also (lightly) foreshadow coming events.
However, caution must accompany this entry: the weather should not be used as a window into a character’s soul. The weather can add invisible pressure for the character, it can layer the SCENE with symbolism, it can carefully hint at the internal landscape, but it must never OVERTLY TELL emotion. Such a heavy-handed approach results in weather cliches and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).
Sight: A flurry of snowflakes, often flying past on the diagonal and combined with a cold, biting wind. Poor visibility and light quality, snow shifts and drifts, and the surroundings are obscured. Flakes build up quickly on hair and…
Smell: An ozone like scent, fresh & crisp air so…
Taste: The snow from a blizzard has no taste, but it will bring down the core body temperature quickly if…
Sound: Howling or whistling wind, the tapping sound…
Touch: Flakes pelt against frozen cheeks, cling to eyelashes and hair. Numbs exposed skin, pain in fingertips and toes, creates an exhausting chore to break a trail through accumulative snow drifts. Shivering, teeth begin to chatter and characters hug themselves to stay warm. Breath warms face briefly before sucked away by the cold. Dry, aching…
Mood: A blizzard can provide a strong backdrop of isolation, either for a character or community. Extreme weather forces people together, which can create a volatile environment or an opportunity to confront issues. Blizzards tend to create a feeling of the outside world being held at bay…
Symbolism: Death, an impossible challenge…
Don’t be afraid to use the weather to add contrast. Unusual pairings, especially when drawing attention to the Character’s emotions, is a powerful trigger for tension. Consider how the bleak mood of a character is even more noticeable as morning sunlight dances across the crystals of fresh snow on the walk to work. Or how the feeling of betrayal is so much more poignant on a hot summer day. Likewise, success or joy can be hampered by a cutting wind or drizzling sleet, foreshadowing conflict to come.
Weather is a powerful tool, helping to foreshadow events and steer the emotional mood of any scene.
Need more detail regarding this weather element? Good news! This thesaurus has been integrated into our new online library at One Stop For Writers. There, not only has the information in each entry been enhanced and expanded, we’ve also added scenarios for adding conflict and tension. The entire thesaurus is also cross-referenced with our many other descriptive collections for easy searchability. Registration is free, so if you’re interested in seeing a sampling of the fully updated Weather and Earthly Phenomenon Thesaurus, head on over to One Stop.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Angela Ackerman says
I know, I know…blizzards! But I figured it would be a good one to get out of the way with all the warm weather on the way, just in case any of you people are writing a snowy scene during the summer.
Thanks everyone for all the comments! Hope this new thesaurus is exactly what you needed.
Holly Ruggiero says
I’m loving the new thesaurus.
Becca Puglisi says
That’s a great example of why weather shouldn’t be cliche in our writing. Though many people may view a type of weather one way, there are always others who see it differently.
Written Not With Ink says
Oh my goodness, everyone! Where is the blizzard love? I live in the Chicagoland area and went through the Blizzard of 2011, and I guess I’m one of the weird ones who was energized by the storm! The silence, which creeps so many of you out, is comforting to me! I feel protected and safe when the snow blankets the area!
Watching the snow pile up against our sliding doors while my kids smiles got bigger and bigger as they begged to go out and play…shoveling out our driveway together—getting good exercise & working hard with my family toward a common goal, the camaraderie all the neighbors share as we look over and wave in between piles of shoveled snow…I absolutely look forward to a good blizzard! (I lived in Florida for a while and missed the snow terribly.)
Just thought I’d add a positive perspective. 🙂
Susanne Drazic says
Wow, great post! So glad I’m not the one in that picture! Talk about stormy weather. YIKES!
Good post. Having been through a few blizzards, I want to add that I found the absence of sound creepy. All you can hear is wind; no birds, next to no traffic (or none at all), no people chatting in the street, maybe not even sirens, which is doubly creepy in a city where you usually hear sirens any time of day or night. I always got a strong sense of isolation in a blizzard.
Lenny Lee* says
hi miss angela! wow you cant know how good this post is for me cause of one of my wips that high up in the mountains in blizzardy weather. i already got it copied and its gonna be a BIG help for my story.
…hugs from lenny
Matthew MacNish says
Personally I love cold weather, but a blizzard is a bit much.
I don’t miss the blizzards of Michigan. I always think of the cutting cold, cutting into my senses, my clothes and my mind like a rain of knives.
And your warning is most necessary. The weather/mood cliches are too many by far.
Susan Flett Swiderski says
Great post! (though a bit chilly) The things I most associate with blizzards are the eerie silence and the sense of isolation. That, and the purely delicious feeling of being inside of a warm house with a hot cup of chocolate. (I may live in the sunny south now, but I grew up in MD, and endured my share of snowstorms.)
Alicia Gregoire says
You had to bring blizzard as the first one. Didn’t we have enough of them this winter?
Great setting for a story! Especially since we just had a big one in Chicago area this year!
Claudie A. says
That’s a great post, and dead on!
Another thing that happens with blizzard (and, well, any time the temperatures go well below zero):
Your runny nose will freeze. Literally. It won’t be runny anymore. It’s a funny and somewhat disagreeable sensation.
So glad spring is back!
Bish Denham says
YEAH! A new thesaurus! And…oh brrrrrr! Glad I don’t live where blizzards regularly rage. (Rage, which is another possible symbol for a blizzard.)
Becca Puglisi says
Angela, this is awesome. Living in south Florida, I have no first-hand experience with blizzards and would have no idea how to write them. Thanks to this, I can now fake it 🙂
Stina Lindenblatt says
Oh, it’s your fault we were dumped with an unreal about of snow last night. It’s was to get me in to the spirit of the post. 😛
Awesome post. You ladies have seriously out done yourselves this time. And I didn’t think that was possible. 😉
Traci Kenworth says
I have a blizzard raging within the mountains my story is setting. This will help me develop the setting/mood better. Thanks!!
Laura Pauling says
Oh come one, it’s almost spring, did you have to do blizzard? 🙂 kidding. One thing I’ve always loved about snow is going out in the complete silence as it falls around me. It’s like the snow covers everything and lulls it to sleep. That’s a sound I hear. Silence. Wonderful job, guys!
Ooh I feel cold after reading that! Very useful though.