Weather Thesaurus Entry: Thunderstorm

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 clichés and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).


Sight: Heavy gray clouds obscuring the sky, trees/bushes/grassing bending and whipping in the wind, rain pouring down, drops bouncing off the pavement, water running downhill and pooling in low spot, drops racing down a window, flashes of…

Smell: Moisture, humidity, earthiness (in rural areas), damp wood, hot asphalt being cooled, a fresh clean smell following the storm, ozone

Taste: water

Touch: A sense of heaviness or weightiness in the air, wind whipping your hair and clothes, strong winds knocking you off balance so you have to lean into them, rain being driven into your face, sodden weight of soaked…

Sound: Booming thunder as the sound waves from the lightning reach your ears, windows rattling, rain pounding on the roof, rain pinging against glass windows, an overall elevated noise from the rain that causes you to turn up…

Mood: The air before a thunderstorm grows heavier and more ‘charged’ as a storm builds, giving many people (and animals, actually) an unsettled, antsy feeling. The air can get so heavy and humid that it feels weighted, as if it’s pressing down on…

Symbolism: Oppression, release, power…

Possible Clichés: A clap of thunder signaling an important or ominous event…

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. A timid, weak person may be empowered by the force of a thunderstorm to take bold action. In contrast, a thunderstorm occurring in a place where storms are infrequent might bring about excitement or anticipation in an otherwise sedate character.

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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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24 Responses to Weather Thesaurus Entry: Thunderstorm

  1. Pingback: Weather Thesaurus Entries Collection | WRITERS HELPING WRITERSWRITERS HELPING WRITERS

  2. I’m adding in the ozone which, if you can believe it, I’ve never smelled. But I have a TERRIBLE sense of smell. I could be playing with my babies for half an hour and my husband will walk in the room and say, “Who’s poopy?” I’m like, “Huh?”

    So thanks for the reminder!

  3. Liana Brooks says:

    Petrichor is the word for “the smell after rain” in case anyone ever wants to get technical.

  4. Leslie Rose says:

    Love the weather angle. I’m fascinated by clouds and storms. I have a hurricane and tornadoes on my dance card as well. Weather is definitely a player!

  5. Marcia says:

    I love thunderstorms too — BUT we just had a thunder-snowstorm on April 19. 9.5 inches. Fortunately, it’s almost all gone already. But, really?

  6. Janet, says:

    Good post. I have lots of thunderstorms in my MG manuscript. Lightning,thunder, fallen trees, flooded roads, wind swishing, hiding in caves, rain pounding on tin roof, and seeing shadows among the trees when lightning streaks across the sky.

  7. Owllady says:

    I have to say “congrats” on spelling lightning properly. Some folks mess that up 😉

    Good post too, guys.

  8. Great post. I love the thunder and lightening as long as ALL family members are in the house. I will use this thesaurus for sure. Awesomely wicked!

  9. Lenny Lee* says:

    hi miss becca! cool post. mostly im scared of thunder and lightening storms and i get my head buried in a blanket. ha ha. i like these weather posts cause for sure they could help make a story way more alive.
    …hugs from lenny

  10. Great job! I love thunderstorms! Especially right before one when there is a warm muggy wind and the sky is dark. Love it!

  11. I love thunderstorms. Just as long as the lightning doesn’t come near my house.

    We watched a house in my neighbourhood burn a few years ago after it was struck by lightning.

    This is an amazing resource. And thanks for reminding writers NOT use weather to show the character’s emotions. 😀

  12. Karen Lange says:

    I am writing a scene now, and you know, I suddenly have the urge to add a thunderstorm! Who knew? Thanks for all your great info! 🙂

  13. My YA WIP features the god of thunder, so this is a timely, wonderful resource. Thanks!

  14. Jeff King says:

    GREAT point… looking back through my WIP, I realize I could use this tip in my work to give the settings more realism, and sharpen the mood.


  15. Karen says:

    Hi Becca,

    Oooo, I like that. I am always affected by the weather and I need to remember my characters should be too. Thanks!

  16. Oooo, good one! As always, I love it. 🙂

  17. Mary Witzl says:

    I like to use weather to support my characters’ moods, but I worry about cliches. There’s a fine line between using a storm to create tension and ending up with dark-and-stormy-night obviousness.

  18. I’m just loving these because I use weather a lot (more than I thought until I saw this). 😀

  19. Great job, Becca! Matt I love that ozone smell too & love to watch storms!

  20. My favorite thunderstorm related smell is that slight ozone like aroma that tells you lightning is coming.

    Another great entry, thanks Becca!

  21. Mysti says:

    Love scenes during thunderstorms are nice 🙂

  22. Bish Denham says:

    Boy, could we use some thunderstorms here in Texas. We are burning up both literally and figuratively. Something like a million acres up in smoke, hundreds of homes destroyed.

  23. Spooky picture. Brings ideas to mind…

  24. Robyn_Lucas says:

    Great post! Needed this today.


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