This Weather Entry has been generously written by Paranormal Author Jami Gold, who recently experienced Phoenix’s Haboob storm. Huge thanks to Jami for offering her first-hand encounter with this incredible phenomenon! Make sure to swing by Jami’s blog, which is an incredible resource for all writers looking to improve their mad skillz. Also, Jami has some spectacular footage of the actual storm, so if you are writing about this type of weather or want to see what she experienced, check out her link here. It’s amazing to watch this storm in action.
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: Before a dust storm hits, the sky is blue and the winds are calm. A random glance to the horizon reveals a wall of brown air stretching high. The size (up to 60 mi/100 km wide and several km high) makes it clear that the cloud is not smoke. A dust storm, also known by the Arabic word “haboob,” is on the way. They usually approach with very little warning. The flat wall of brown makes it difficult to judge how far away it is unless the observer is elevated above the landscape. By the time the cloud’s proximity is apparent…
Smell: Dust. Some semi-arid locations have creosote bushes as vegetation, which give off a distinctive smell if rain is following in the wake of the dust. Breathing will be laboured with the dirty air.
Touch: Eyelids want to close to keep out the dust. Eyes sting and water, and moisture from tears mixes with dirt to leave grimy streaks on the face. The wind-driven dust sandblasts bare skin. Hands are raised to protect the face. Fingers lift the neck of a shirt to cover the mouth and nose. Fabric is pressed against the face to ease breathing. The mouth gets dry and feels like sandpaper. Every touch…
Sound: The sound of a dust storm depends on the location. Outside or in a secure building, the noise is similar to a strong wind. However, if there are windows around or the structure is unstable, like a tent, the dirt pelts the surface with a rushing, tapping sound like rain. Leaves rustle…
Mood: A small dust storm can reinforce a drought or warn of over-farming. A large dust storm creates a sense of dread. Large storms are rare, so we cannot help watching as it approaches. We stand awestruck by the size and know it’s inescapable. As it closes in, we realize our perspective is…
Symbolism: Power of nature, inevitability or unavoidable, apocalypse, Godly disfavour, evil swallowing the land
OTHER: When large thunderclouds collapse, a downdraft of wind hits the ground and can blow dust or sand into the air, creating a wall of sediment that precedes the rest of the storm. Dust storms occur in desert-like or over-farmed conditions, where loose soil is easy for winds to pick up. The type of deserts that produce dust storms might have vegetation, like cactus, Palo Verde trees, Joshua trees, creosote bushes, and scrub brush. Deserts of sand dunes, like the Sahara, produce…
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.