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: Frost crystals coating branches and exposed metal, breath fogging the air, snow shimmering, skeletal trees, pine boughs weighed down with snow, shoveled driveways, footprints (animal & human) in the snow, snow drifts, houses, cars and buildings…
Smell: Crisp, clean air, hot chocolate, ozone, fresh baked cookies and treats, cinnamon, woodsmoke…
Taste: Candy canes, chocolate, frosted cookies, molasses, baked pumpkin pie, turkey…
Touch: Cold air against exposed skin, zipping up a coat, tugging on boots and gloves, winding on a scarf, pushing a snow shovel, scraping a car windshield as quickly as possible, mittens growing wet, numb fingers and toes, lips drying…
Sound: Winter brings almost an absence of sound–most birds have flown south, leaving only the occasional call of a goose or duck flying overhead, or the roar of a passing car. Wind must be strong to be heard as there are no leaves to resist it. Small creeks…
Mood: Using Winter as the time period in a novel provides the opportunity for characters to do some mental housekeeping. As the cold weather forces many outdoor activities to a halt and hampers travel, the mind often…
Symbolism: Winter commonly symbolizes death, hibernation, a period of rest…
Possible Cliches: Comparing a person’s cold demeanor to winter…
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.
i would like to purchase a copy
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Thanks for your interest in this descriptive thesaurus. 🙂 The Weather Thesaurus is not a book, but the entire thesaurus can be accessed in full with a One Stop for Writers membership: https://onestopforwriters.com/weathers
The Golden Eagle says
I like winter and snow, and I’ve noticed that I often use the cold in my stories. I should definitely bookmark this post for future reference!
Kelly Hashway says
I just realized it’s never been winter in on of my manuscripts. Maybe because I don’t like the cold. I should mix things up and have winter make an appearance.
Mirka Breen says
You came to my favorite season. Winter, as you noted, is the ‘interior’ season.
Clarissa Draper says
Brrr… I’m in Mexico and we’ve been having really nice weather. In the twenties everyday. However, I heard Calgary went up to fifteen yesterday. Thanks for this entry.
Kelly Polark says
I can’t believe we haven’t had much snow here in Illinois. No accumulation yet. And it was 48 degrees today in January! (though I’m not complaining! I’d like a little snow though, because it looks pretty. I just hate driving in it!)
Becca Puglisi says
Awesome job, Ange. We finally got a taste of winter in south Florida, and I’m loving it!
Carrie Butler says
Winter is such a daunting, magical force to be reckoned with. (Side note: My last book took place in winter!)
Great post! 🙂
If I could suggest an addition to the Touch category? Extreme cold (-20 and below ambient temp) means that the nose hairs start to freeze together from the moisture in our breath. The sharp sting in the nasal passages is a piquant counterpoint to the slow congealing of the other extremities as they slowly freeze solid. (Poetic words for a harsh reality here in balmy MN . . .)
Karen Lange says
Great stuff! Been chilly here and this sums it all up! Actually getting some ideas too for the WIP as we speak. 🙂
Ghenet Myrthil says
I’ve been waiting for you to include Winter in your thesaurus. My WIP begins in the winter and ends early spring. Now that winter has arrived, I should start taking notes. 🙂
Leslie Rose says
I love the bare trees in winter. On a walk in the woods last week I saw one last apple clinging to a naked branch. It mesmerized me. The brave little apple who could.
Angela Ackerman says
Good point Heather–I missed that one. I’ll add it now!
Living in Canada, winter is something I have intimate knowledge of. 🙂 Here in Calgary the weather is more mild, but when I lived in Northern Canada, we had a saying–our seasons were 6 months of winter, 6 months of bad tobogganing. 🙂
Thanks everyone for the comments! Stay warm!
SHANNON O'DONNELL says
Ha ha ha. This is a great one, especially since so many of us are STILL waiting for winter to arrive. 🙂
Thank you for your wonderful posts. I often refer to your topics when I’m stuck. I have one more idea for winter. I actually used it in the chapter I wrote yesterday. When snow falls it covers the dingy ground with a layer of white – so snow can also symbolize purity. The Bible verse – though my sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.
Jennifer Hoffine says
Good point about making sure you don’t use weather as a heavy-handed link to the character’s state of being.
Stina Lindenblatt says
Ha! This is one season I’m very familiar with (just not right now with our spring like conditions). 🙂
Miranda Hardy says
Great in remembering to set the scene. I don’t often read about such things when it could greatly add to the setting.
Traci Kenworth says
Brr. Cold is seeping through the door here as I write this point from that big “W” word. Great post!! Will need to use it soon for one of my stories I’m working on, just to get the details right. Thanks!!
Natalie Aguirre says
Love the post, but not winter. It’s too COLD here.
Matthew MacNish says
How timely! Now if only we could get some darn snow down here, in the south.
Laura Pauling says
I love the pictures you guys use. Awesome. Winter is all around me now, I can’t escape it!
Winter can be very powerful!