Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Heads Up Writers - The Weather Is Your Friend

Okay, writers, listen up.  Despite all those jokes about “A dark and stormy night” via Edward Bulwer-Lytton and the ongoing Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest the simple fact is the weather can be and frequently is a writer’s friend.

At the risk of rattling a few cages and creating some writers’ angst, there’s a whole lot you can do with the weather whether in a script or a novel or short story. For one thing you can’t avoid the weather, it’s there. And it offers the opportunity for all sorts of descriptive, atmospheric and elements to advance a plot.

The intrepid writer can utilize weather to raise the stakes in a book or movie - hey, there are lots of weather conditions that can turn life-threatening and add great interest to a story (provided you’re not tossing it in just for some action and it doesn’t relate to the plot). I mean look, things are pretty tricky if a protagonist has werewolves on his trail, but things get that much worse when he gets trapped by a rising flood inside a high-rise WITH the werewolves and no way out.

A writer could simply set the mood for his or her story with weather. Many times sadness is reflected with drifting snow outside a window or a drizzling rain falling from gray skies. Weather affects us all and contributes to our moods. Adding a bit to your story wouldn’t hurt.

Have you noticed weather can put forth irony as well?  What about a beautiful sunrise, chirping birds and the news a loved one has died? Maybe the opposite - a raging blizzard, a computer that works and gives up the information the protagonist has just won the lottery but can’t get out of the house.

It can also be a way to present your reader of your writing or watcher of your movie some symbolism. Weather can be evocative of memories; happy ones of a snowy Christmas - or a palm-bedecked Christmas if in the tropics. And what of the character who’s always sunny and happy no matter how dismal the weather?

Weather can also create an interesting setting. Bring color into your writing. Add rain, snow, sleet, ice, wind, whatever and add spice to a scene. Take a scene of a couple merely standing and talking and turn it into a bit of a comedy by having them slipping and sliding on the ice, clutching each other to keep from falling. Zip things up.

So don’t hesitate to use weather to your advantage - but remember to use a light hand and in small doses, interwoven with action and dialog and remember to use it when it’s important. As a writer you don’t want to plague your readers with endless pages of snow drifting lightly down on the trees, covering the walks, making driving slow and difficult, coating the little birds’ heads, melting into ice patches, etc.

Use it the right way and add spice, color and life to your story, but like everything else, in moderation.

Come on, tell me when you’ve used weather to spice up a story or add drama. Who's afraid of Bulwer-Lytton?


  1. I've been working on a thriller most of which is set in L.A. I really wanted to describe the weather but realized it was futile. There isn't any weather in L.A.


    Larry Brody

    1. LOL - now that's a problem - though my niece living there would beg to differ :-)


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