Weather Thesaurus Entry: Lightning

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: Blindingly white jags that fork and branch off of the main strike. Lightning can travel from the earth to the clouds, from clouds to the earth, or from cloud to cloud. Lighting strikes may occur singularly, with many seconds or minutes between them, or they may occur seemingly continuously for a period of time. Lightning may be accompanied…

Smell: rain, an electrical/ozone smell, burning

Taste: heat

Touch: The surface of a lightning bolt reaches temperatures hotter than the sun, so a bolt can wreak serious havoc on whatever it hits. People struck by lightning express many different physical sensations, but the common complaint is burns at the entrance and exit points. Electrical burns…

Sound: Thunder may follow lightning if it is within hearing distance. Other storm sounds may be evident…


Mood: Lightning accompanies storms. As such, it often fills people with a sense of foreboding or impending doom. Lightning is insanely fast, its power and destructive potential beyond our ability…

Symbolism: power, nature, God or fate…

Possible Cliches: greased lightning, lightning never strikes the same place twice (which apparently isn’t true)…

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, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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[…] Lightning […]

8 years ago

The thing saying that lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice is not true because in some cases the lightning has struck in more then once in the same place it is very scarey at times but nature is nature and we have nothing to fear

Kelly Hashway
8 years ago

You’re right. There are a lot of cliche ways to use weather. We have to be careful to avoid those.

Stina Lindenblatt
8 years ago

I love thunderstorms, but I’ve seen the devastation lightning can cause. A few years ago a house in my neighborhood caught on fire when it was hit by lightning. 🙁

C.R. Evers
8 years ago

Another great post. YOu guys RaWk!

That picture gives me the shivers too. I’d freak if I saw that in person!!!!!


Love this picture. I have character that can manipulate energy and this definitely gives a good representation of what he could do with something like this. I can so image this picture in my MS.

Becca Puglisi
8 years ago

Excellent point, Susan. I didn’t think about the hair-standing-on-end detail.

Carrie Butler
8 years ago

I can’t stop staring at that picture. So cool! 🙂

Kelly Polark
8 years ago

Cool post!

Susan Flett Swiderski
8 years ago

I LOVE that picture. And as long as I’m safely inside, I love the sheer raw power of lightning. It’s exciting, adrenaline-inducing, and better than any man-made fireworks. Couple other things about lightning: it sometimes pulses multiple times from cloud to ground and back again. That’s what makes some strikes seem to last longer than others. Also, when it strikes nearby, every hair on your body stands on end, and you feel a distinctive tingling. (Yeah, I was a little TOO close that time.)

8 years ago

I’ve been guilty of the ‘fast as lightning’ comment. Love this, it gives me so many great new ideas!

Angela Ackerman
8 years ago

That picture alone gives me shivers! I absolutely love lightning. 🙂

Christopher Lloyd FTW!