If you are a bit hesitant to use weather in your writing, you’re not alone. After all, there’s a fine line between using weather as a setting tool and turning your work into a melodrama riddled with clichés. But avoiding weather altogether is a mistake all on its own.
The weather plays a significant role in creative writing. Not only can it be used in all kinds of atmospheric descriptions and to move the plot forward, but it also sets the tone, foreshadows upcoming events, and can portray emotion within the story.
If weather feels like a recipe for disaster, you might not be utilizing it right. Not to worry! Below, we will show exactly how you should be using weather in your creative writing so you can add that extra bit of “umpf” to your story.
Use Weather to Set the Scene
One of the easiest and most natural ways to use weather is to set the scene. This is also where a lot of writers mess up.
Now, we’re not saying you should give your reader a full weather report at the beginning of a scene. Not only is that boring and unnecessary, but it delays the story and can pull a reader from immersion. However, if you don’t mention the weather at all, an essential element will be missing from your writing. Weather is a great way to create mood and drive the plot, and it allows readers to visualize and feel the world you’re creating.
Weather as Setting
When it comes to creative writing, the weather is a crucial part of the setting. It plays a big role in allowing the reader to immerse themselves into the world you are creating.
For example, imagine that a town was described by a character as “wet and dreary 365 days a year.” Now imagine that the writer only gave details of the architecture, food, and people in the town. It would feel like something was missing.
You might be waiting for the mention of the clouds in the sky or the wetness in the air, whether that be rain or fog. Maybe the town is by the ocean? Something to show you why the town is considered wet.
Avoid weather in your writing can leave the reader asking questions and pull them away from the story.
Creating Mood with Weather
The weather you choose and the way you describe it can completely set the mood of a scene.
Let’s say you have three friends standing side-by-side with a long road ahead of them. Now let’s add some weather:
- Storm clouds are in the distance: This could symbolize or foreshadow trouble ahead. Readers would expect to see many obstacles.
- Light snow is falling: Their journey could be a cleansing of sorts or the end of something. Snow also has a quietness and softness to it.
- The sun is high on a spring day: This often creates an uplifting mood. Spring typically symbolizes hope and new birth, while sunshine tends to make people feel happy.
Even though the scene is pretty much the same, changing the weather can give it a completely different feel and change a reader’s expectations of the story.
Using Weather as a Plot Device
Most of us, if not all, have seen or know of the movie Twister. If you aren’t sure what that is, Twister is a 90s film about a large tornado and a team of storm chasers who create an advanced weather alert system. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s fairly obvious that this story wouldn’t be much without the use of weather.
However, the weather doesn’t have to be the star to be used as a plot device. Even the most ordinary weather can drive the plot of a story.
- A hot summer day and broken air conditioner could be the driving factor that makes your character leave home on a particular day.
- Light snow at the beginning of winter could be the one thing that two characters bond over.
- Rain can spoil an outdoor gathering, sparking drama among attendees.
Weather as a plot device can be subtle or dramatic, as long as it’s moving the story forward somehow. If it’s not, then you’ve got some work to do.
Use Weather Descriptions Sparingly
Decide how weather can be used in your story, and then think about how much time to spend on it.
Remember, your reader doesn’t want a weather report. Typing out a well-written sentence or two is enough you convey what you are trying to say about the weather without letting it drag on.
However, if the weather is a key point in that scene (like Twister), make it count. Make the storm seem like an experience your readers won’t forget. This can be made even more powerful by keeping other weather descriptions small.
Scattering descriptions throughout a scene is a great way to utilize weather without overdoing it.
- Your character notices the scorched pines on the evergreen trees. (This could be the sign of an extremely hot summer.)
- Your character’s hair sticks to the back of their neck. (This is a sign of heat and humidity.)
- Two characters have a hard time hearing each other over the sound of raindrops.
Add your weather descriptions in as your characters interact with the world. This will also help if you struggle with telling instead of showing.
Avoid Clichés or Rework Them
Weather is a great way to convey emotion in a scene but be careful to avoid clichés. We’ve all seen the gloomy funeral rainstorm, the lightning strike just as the hero delivers the final blow, and the cloudless sunny day at the park.
While these are all fine, they mirror what the character is supposed to be feeling instead of diving into that character’s emotions. So, instead of mirroring, show how the character reacts to the weather. That way, even if you feel drawn to use a cliché weather scene, you have the opportunity to rework it and make it your own.
For example, if you like the idea of the rainy funeral, maybe your main character smiles as the rain hits her skin because it reminds her of a fond memory of the deceased. This allows you to use that scene while making it a little less cliché and gives your readers more insight into the character.
Using weather is a great way to spice up your writing. It can change moods and propel the story. So don’t be afraid to take advantage of this while you’re creating your world! However, remember that while the weather may have a huge effect, it doesn’t need to be seen too frequently and can easily become boring and overdone.