Weather Thesaurus Entry: Drought

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).

Drought: A period of abnormally dry weather sufficiently prolonged for the lack of water to cause serious imbalance in the affected area. –Glossary of Meteorology (1959)


Sight: drooping/dying/yellowing plants, brown patchy grass, dry cracked ground with no grass at all, stunted crops, skinny/bony livestock, topsoil being blown away in the wind, increased dust and dirt in the air, dirt piling up in corners and crevices…

Smell: overheated air, dirt

Taste: dust in your throat, dry mouth

Touch: dust coating your skin and clogging your nostrils, hot wind, winds laced with dirt and sand scraping your skin, sun beating down on you, thirst, irritated throat and nose from increased allergies…

Sound: wind, dry twigs and branches clacking together


Mood: Water is one of our most basic needs. When it stops appearing in the form of regular rainfall, and existing water slowly starts to disappear, desperation is spawned. People turn anxious as they wonder when it will rain again and if it will happen before the crops fail or…

Symbolism: Need, desperation, survival of the fittest…

Possible Cliches: the lion and the deer, out of desperation, drinking from the same water hole…

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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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Julie Musil
9 years ago

Such authentic details, thanks so much. I think I need a long drink of water now. 😀

Stina Lindenblatt
9 years ago

Drought. Hmmm. We don’t have a drought here right now. Actually it’s the complete opposite. 😛

Karen Lange
9 years ago

Good stuff! I seem to say that a lot here…but it’s true. Thanks, as always. You guys rocks. 🙂

Have a great weekend!

Jeff King
9 years ago

Once again I loved the post… thx for taking the time to share it.

Becca Puglisi
9 years ago

We’re definitely in need of water in south Florida, though we got some welcome rain today. The drought conditions here are always a hot topic of weather conversation, but researching and writing this entry made me realize that we have nothing to complain about.

Matthew, I’m embarrassed to say that the tumbleweed cliche came right out of one of my current manuscripts. *blush*

9 years ago

What a great post! Sometimes I forget that jazzing up my setting a little could add more contrast and drama to the scene. :)such an informative post!
have a great memorial day weekend!

Clarissa Draper
9 years ago

I’m going through a drought where I live and so I’m writing a lot of them in my stories. Great entry.

9 years ago

Yes, I hadn’t thought of that either. This is so unbelievably helpful.

Talli Roland
9 years ago

Drought, hm. Hadn’t thought of this one!

The Golden Eagle
9 years ago

There’s not much drought in this area, either–just lots of water.

But great post! 🙂

Susanne Drazic
9 years ago

Another great post. Definitely not thinking of drought around here. Seems like we have had rain almost daily these days.

Shannon O'Donnell
9 years ago

I love the way you warn us of not mis-using weather. So true!! 🙂

Susan Flett Swiderski
9 years ago

Sounds like my neck of the woods. We need rain so badly the trees whistle every time a dog walks down the street.

9 years ago

Excellent entry!
Hard to think of a drought when it’s been raining in the Midwest since March! 🙂

Matthew MacNish
9 years ago

Hah! I hadn’t thought of it until you’d mentioned it, but that rolling tumbleweed would be a bit much at the wrong moment.

Well done, thanks Becca!

9 years ago

Oooh, good one!!