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: Overcast sky, super-dark clouds–almost black/green/purple, thunderstorms, lightning, clouds that are divided by a definable line (wall cloud), swirling clouds, a funnel varying in color from transparent to dark gray reaching to the ground, shifting winds reaching…
Smell: rain, ozone
Taste: humid air, rain
Touch: a change in air pressure that makes your ears pop, wind knocking you off balance, rain flying into your face, debris scraping your skin, a sudden calm as the storm approaches..
Sound: tornado sirens, howling wind, rain pelting the windows and roof, small hailstones pinging off the house, large hailstones smashing glass and bouncing off the sidewalk, a sudden quiet, the sound of a freight train as the storm barrels down on you, windows…
Mood: The nearness (or even perceived nearness) of a tornado can make people highly anxious and fearful. Luckily, there is often a bit of warning before these storms, so they can also create a sense…
Symbolism: disorder, chaos, power or powerlessness…
Possible Cliches: The all-destructive tornado that causes a victim to recognize what’s truly important in her life…
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 a peaceful character in a quiet basement could contrast the storm outside. Or how the homeless man living in his car has as much to lose from a deadly storm as the millionnaire across town. Likewise, a conflicted character could encounter revelation rather than chaos in the midst of a storm.
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.
Rachna Chhabria says
I loved this post. Great opportunity to create tension in a WIP.
Jeff King says
You never fail to convey a solid piece of advice in a way I can understand it, thx for all you do.
BTW, many people believe that a tornado’s danger zone is withing the funnel, but the fact is that deadly wind gust can extend for well over a kilometer around the actual funnel, plus flying debris can injure or kill anyone it comes in contact with.
So a tornado is something to be feared. Keep your ruby slippers handy, because Kansas is going bye-bye! 😀
Angela Ackerman says
Great job on this becca–such a terrifying event, but it has some great opportunity to create tension and that ticking clock feel.
Shannon O'Donnell says
I love the emotional triggers part–excellent!
Oooh, scary. Very useful!! Thanks!!
Robyn Lucas says
I like the idea of the tornado sirens.
I for one am SO frightened by tornados! We have a weather radio and gave all our family one for warning!
Laura Pauling says
Very apt. I was just in Nashville. If you’re in a city you’ll hear the sirens going off, you may or may not be hiding in a bathroom of a store – with no windows – you’ll see crying panicked kids, stressed moms, and store workers yelling at people to take cover who aren’t listening! AWesome job!
Lynda R Young says
This is fantastic. I love your point about not making weather a window into the character’s soul.