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: Rain blowing sideways, decreased to zero visibility, huge ocean waves, trees breaking in half, blown-down trees blocking the roads, debris flying through the air and rolling along the ground, flooding low areas, overflowing pools/ditches/ponds/lakes…
Smell: water, ozone
Touch: the house shivering and trembling as winds buffet it, rain pelting and pouring through holes in the roof or broken windows, steadily warming air as the power and…
Sound: rain pinging against the windows, howling/moaning/shrieking winds, debris crashing into the shutters, fluctuating noise volume as heavier bands of rain…
Mood: There’s nothing quite like being enclosed in a boarded-up house that’s being pummeled by 100mph winds. This situation quickly becomes claustrophobic, especially in the heat of summer when the power goes out. Hurricanes create an atmosphere…
Symbolism: power, destruction, God…
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.
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
As a Floridian, this is accurate. But I’ve also been caught in a hurricane, outside. There descriptors for that which are missing.
Wind pushing hard against your skin, causing it to ripple.
Rain that feels like needles.
Rattling and slamming of loose article. (siding, broken lights, trash cans)
Rustling of palm branches, as they wave violently in the wind.
Fast moving clouds, ranging in color from dull grey to charcoal.
For mood: There is a sense of fear and anxiety when you are told to get to your “safe room”, and when you see feeder bands approaching on radar. (For many people, the safe room is a bathroom in the interior of the home with no windows. Often a mattress is taken in their to cover yourself with. )
After the storm :
There is the sound of draining/flowing water, along with other drips and related sounds.
The temperature drops 10-15 degrees (The storm actually feeds off the ambient energy)
Power generators are running.
The cliche’ that stands out most for me is “Hunker down”. It’s a term used over and over by the weather people when they want people to stay put and be prepared. Usually when a feeder band is approaching.
The “Feeder band”, “Eye of the storm” or “Storm wall” are also terms often used.
Side note: Once a hurricane passes over, your home, and you are in the eye, the opposite wall approaching is moving in the opposite direction. In the US, the East side of the hurricane contains most of the rain and is referred to as the “wet side”
Hope this helps someone 🙂
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Wow, thanks for this, Dan. Nothing beats first hand experience especially for something like this. It must have been terrifying to go through.
Leslie Rose says
I was caught in hurricane Iniki in Hawaii back in the 90’s. It was pretty darn scary – palm trees bent all the way to the ground. Afterwards I remember the ocean looking unnaturally high. It looked like it should burst and pour over the land. I hope you came through yours unscathed.
Jeff King says
Nice… I am beginning to wonder when you’ll run out of Thesaurus’
Lisa Gail Green says
Okay – your aside has me seriously worried. 🙁 Unfortunately many can write from first hand experience I guess. Hopefully the worst is over.
The Golden Eagle says
Interesting! I just read a book that had a hurricane–What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell. What a coincidence.
Pam Torres says
The only cliche I can think of is the “quiet before the storm”. Great descriptors and images.Thanks.
Having survived several hurricanes. I can tell you that the waiting is grating, as is the long hours with nothing to do, and the days after with extreme heat (no wind to speak off) and no utilities.
Happy fun times for all!
This gives me chills. I can almost taste the coming storm. Love it!
I love when I can feel the weather in the stories I read.
Also, great prayer/offering — I am certain it will counteract any future storm effects!
MG Higgins says
Thank you for this post! Great information. And here’s hoping for a calm hurricane season.
Barbara Watson says
Weather affects who I am and how I feel on any given day, but honestly, it’s neglected in my WIP at the moment. Thank you for this post. (and may hurricanes stay away from you and others)
Angela Ackerman says
I think of you every tropical storm season Becca, living where you do in Florida. Hugs & hope you are always kept out of harms way.
Great entry, as always. I could really feel what it must be like, even tho I’ve never experienced it first hand, and that’s exactly what our job is as writers–well done!
Matthew MacNish says
There’s got to be some kind of hurricane related cliche. Maybe the lonely fishing boat caught out at sea?
I don’t know. Great post, otherwise!
Christina Lee says
NICE!! I like storm metaphors too (but not too many). I hope your home stays intact too *fingers crossed*
Hope your loved ones and house stays safe!! May any storms out there pass you by completely. Great entry. We forget sometimes how destructive Nature can be until we see the aftermath.
Laura Pauling says
We just had a flash thunderstorm the other day with high winds and my kids were scared. It started a great discussion though about the tornados happening recently.
Great post! My thriller is set in Las Vegas in the summer, so there’s focus on the sun, heat, etc. But after reading this, I know there are more sensory descriptions I can add.