Using Weather in Fiction

By Ellen Buikema

Weather in fiction is a powerful factor. When weather is included in a scene it adds depth and realism, pulling the reader further into the story. Every description whether in scene, tagline, or dialogue, including weather, must move the story forward.

Since childhood I’ve enjoyed storms and changes in weather so much that I used to try and outperform the weather forecasters. Sometimes I got lucky.

I find the electrical energy of a storm invigorating. (As long as I’m not traveling in it.)

I learned to estimate how far away a storm is using the “flash-to-bang” lightning to thunder method. Count the seconds between lightning and thunder and divide by five. Five seconds is one mile, ten seconds is two miles. When the time between the lightning flash and the roar of thunder is 30 seconds or less, the lightning is 6 miles away or closer. Definitely time to be indoors.

While I write this blog post it is pouring rain here in central Texas. Thank goodness for surge protectors. Now if only the power doesn’t go out…

Why Write About Weather?

Storms and changing weather can cause tension, altering the protagonist’s course and complicating the hero’s journey. Weather conditions can change the outcome of events.

Emotions and weather are intertwined

  • Stormy weather/stormy mood
  • Sunny skies/sunny disposition
  • Overcast and rainy/depression—unless you are from an area where overly rainy is considered liquid sunshine as it is sometimes referred to in the Pacific Northwest.

One Stop For Writers has a fantastic weather thesaurus listed under the Thesaurus tab: Weather And Earthly Phenomenon Thesaurus.

This site lists 39 weather elements with notes on:

  • Sights
  • Textures and Sensations
  • Sounds
  • Reinforcing a Mood
  • Symbolism
  • Common Clichés
  • Weather Notes
  • and Scenarios For Adding Conflict or Tension

Weather-writing activity

  • Think of a novel that uses weather to enhance the story.
  • Which of the eight elements listed above does the author use?
  • How is it effective?
  • Take a scene in your current Work In Progress and try adding weather elements.
  • Does that take you deeper into the scene?

Quotes where weather impacts scenes.

Weather heightening fear

“He stared in awe and fear at the freakish celestial display, another jagged crack opened in the heavens. The earth-seeking tip of the hot bolt touched an iron streetlamp only sixty feet away, ans Maxwell cried out in fear. At the moment of contact, the night became incandescent, and the glass panes in the lamp exploded. The clap of thunder vibrated in Maxwell’s teeth; the porch floor rattled.” Lightning by Dean Koontz

Weather reinforcing mood

“She shook off his hand. ‘Like he gave me a chance, you mean?’ She turned on her heel. ‘I can’t even believe what I’m hearing.’

The rain was falling in sheets now, dripping from her hair in wet streaks. Kate blinked the water out of her eyes and stumbled as she walked away.” A Way From Heart to Heart by Helena Fairfax

Soothing weather juxtaposing horror

‘“Confounded foul-mouth fool tried ta ride them rods ’neath the train car.” He wiped his eyes with his shirt sleeve. “He slipped ’n fell clean under.” He sat on the ground, rocking while he hugged his skinny legs to his chest, his voice strained and broken. “Bill was my bestest friend.”

Soon, a gentle rain fell, washing away the blood and grime.’” The Hobo Code, a work in progress

Weather as escape

“The fog-bank lay like white wool against the window. Holmes held the lamp towards it. ‘See,’ said he. ‘None could find his way into the Grimpen Mire tonight.

She laughed and clapped her hands. Her eyes and teeth gleamed with fierce merriment. He may find his way in, but never out,” she cried.” The Hound of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Weather enhances the scene using the senses

“The snow came up to the top of Georgie’s calves — she had to lift her feet high to make any progress. Her ears and eyelids were freezing … God, she’d never even been able to imagine this much cold before. How could people live someplace that so obviously didn’t want them?” Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Weather and the hero’s journey

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.” The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Final Thoughts

The only time I don’t appreciate the use of weather in writing occurs when the author uses a major storm or other natural disaster to resolve the ending, or rather not resolve as the characters were killed off in the disaster. When I’ve invested time and emotional energy in a story only to see the characters destroyed in a typhoon I am less enthusiastic to read another novel by that author.

What do you think is the best use of weather in fiction? Do you listen to sounds of weather or replay storms in your mind when you are writing scenes involving storms? Do you have a favorite quote where weather affects a scene that you’d like to share?

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About Ellen

Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents, Parenting: A Work in Progress, and The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon, a series of chapter books for children with stories encouraging the development of empathy—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her Works In Progress are, The Hobo Code, YA historical fiction and Crystal Memories, YA fantasy.

Find her at http://ellenbuikema.com or on Amazon.


Meet Ellen!

On Tuesday, Jun 29, 2021 12pm – 12:45pm Central Time I will be on a Skype chat with fellow authors. We will be talking about the importance of children’s books.

The link to join the Meet Now chat via Skype is: https://join.skype.com/Zdbdl6IxQY2S
You do not need to have a Skype account to use this link and if you do have a Skype account you may join via Skype also.

Top Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

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