WEATHER and PHENOMENON are important elements 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: As the sun lowers beyond the horizon, the color spectrum of the sky changes to orange, pink and red hues. Clouds, dust or airborne particles appear back lit with vibrant colors, which casts the same color filter on anything reflective (water, shiny leaves, glass, etc). Shadows…
Smell: No smell is directly associated with sunset, however as the temperature cools, the lack of exposure to sunlight will ‘dampen’ the strength of certain smells (day-blooming flowers, pollution…). Night-blooming flowers, if present, will release their scent into the air.
Touch: The light from a sunset will warm the skin, but it is a fading warmth, creating an interesting opposition effect, as sunset by sight alone is often compared to fire.
Sound: As night approaches, bird activity lessens, and sounds from bees and insects becomes almost non-existent, creating a sound void.
Mood: Sunset is almost synonymous with endings in writing. Sunset is the waning of the day, and a time where characters slow their activity and reflect upon recent events. Using sunset in a setting can create a feeling of time…
Symbolism: Growing older; transitions; death…
Possible Cliches: Comparing sunset to fire or a burning sky…
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.
Angela Ackerman says
Thanks everyone for the comments. Sunsets are such a great draw as a setting element. I’m glad this one helps!
Kari Marie says
You brought up some important points. I’m working on my revision right now and I completely ignored the weather entirely and there were several scenes that could use some enhancement in that department. I’ll take your tips to heart.
Cynthia Chapman Willis says
I love this! I’ve been writing about sunsets in my WIP. It’s amazing and scary how many cliches there are regarding sunsets. Great photo, too.
Karen Lange says
At the risk of sounding redundant – good stuff! Thanks, as always. 🙂
Julie Musil says
You captured this so well. We live out in the boonies, and watching the sun set behind our western mountains is one of my favorite things to do.
Love this post. You need a writer’s hotline! <3
Lenny Lee* says
hi miss angela! missed you! i love the weather posts. just yesterday with my wip i used one you did on wind and the wind helped my mc find something he was looking for in a real strange way. sunsets are soooo pretty. i didnt use one in a story yet.
…hugs from lenny
Talli Roland says
Beautiful photo – I love sunsets! I haven’t seen a really stunning one for a while.
Bish Denham says
I love a sunset. Nice job Angela.
In some places, like the Caribbean, with the advent of sunset, certain insects and animals wake up and sing throughout the night.
What a pretty picture. I love sunsets and they often play a big part in my work (since I write scary things) in order to balance the dark with the light, or the ugly with the beautiful.
Wow, I love this post. Extremely insightful. Thanks. And thank you for visiting my blog and leaving your comment.
Becca Puglisi says
Those cliches are spot-on. So glad you’re back!
Carrie Butler says
Welcome back, Angela! 🙂 I love the imagery of a sunset, even when it’s as subtle as bathing the characters in orange hues.
I like that, “must not overtly tell”, great point! There is a lot of temptation to do that and it’s a good reminder. Love this post, it just makes me sigh and relax. Sunsets are the best!
Angela Ackerman says
I was thinking this as I wrote the entry. It’s tough, because let’s face it–a sunset really resembles these things. But then that’s always been our challenge–to find a fresh edge to tired description. 🙂
Matthew MacNish says
I wonder how many times a sunset has been compared to fire and/or blood. I’m not going to pretend I’ve never done it.