7 Ways To Write About The Weather

7 Ways To Write About The Weather

Writing about the weather is boring? No way! We all check up on the weather several times each day. It decides so much of our lives. It should be part of your writing, too. This article offers you seven ways to write about the weather.

7 Ways To Write About The Weather

I love talking about the weather. It decides what I wear, how I travel (if I travel at all), my health, and even my mood. That’s not counting ‘bad hair days.’

Weather forecasts are important for farmers, for utility companies, and they help protect our lives and property. If you could control the weather, you’d get to decide who goes hungry in this world and who doesn’t. That’s how important the weather is. So, where’s the weather in your writing?

Many writers tend to make weather take the backseat. They don’t realise what the weather can do for them. So, let’s find out!

How to Use The Weather In Stories

Here are 7 ways to use the weather in your stories. We’ll start with the most common ones (also the most boring) and work our way up to the exciting stuff.

1. Weather As A Conversation Starter

‘What’s the weather like?’ is the world’s number one question. Whatever you say or ask about the weather can be used as a conversation starter. It’s that universal. That’s also where the danger lies. Talking about the weather is a cliché.

So, use these classic phrases sparingly (or not at all). If you absolutely need to, then make your characters aware of their need to use a cliché. Here’s an example:

Example: He just had to speak to the girl at the bus stop. But how could he make her talk? His brain was a blank. He knew he resorted to a cliché when he blurted out: ‘Nice weather, eh?’

Here, using the cliché is needed to show how desperate the character is to start a conversation.

2. Weather As A Backdrop

The most common use of the weather in fiction is as an inconspicuous element of the setting in sentences like this one:

Example:    On a sunny day, Jane went to the public library.

Not exciting, right? That’s because the weather doesn’t do anything. It’s stated as a fact, obvious and boring. It’s telling. How about showing it instead?

Example: ‘A T-shirt is enough,’ Jane thought, glad to put her cardigan aside, as she left the house to go to the public library. Who needed extra baggage on a day like this?

In this example, the character experiences the weather. We even learn how that affects Jane’s mood. Much better, isn’t it?

3. Weather As A Sensual Experience

Let’s see if we can provide even more showing (check out these ‘101 Words To Describe the Weather’). Weather is how we experience the force of the elements. That makes it intensely sensual: rain feels wet and cold, and it makes us depressed. Sunshine is the opposite.

There’s more. Humidity causes hair to get frizzy, and hairdos to collapse (‘bad hair days’). Many people get migraines under certain weather conditions. Air pressure in combination with temperature changes people’s blood pressure. Mental health can also be affected by the weather. Talk about feeling ‘under the weather!’

So, how about describing how the weather feels on your characters’ skin? How does it affect their mood?

4. Weather As Foreshadowing

As authors, we’re in control of the story, we steer our readers’ attention. Most readers appreciate it when we do this in a subtle way. That’s called foreshadowing. Authors hint at future events by creating an atmosphere (pun intended). Let’s look at our example from above and include the weather. Watch what happens at the end.

Example: ‘A T-shirt is enough,’ Jane thought, glad to put her cardigan aside, as she left the house to go to the public library. Who needed extra baggage on a day like this? She skipped down the street. At a traffic light, she looked up at  the sky. ‘Funny,’ she thought, ‘that cloud wasn’t there when I left home.’

As readers, we expect that little cloud to grow to grow into a storm. This storm can happen literally (as setting), or emotionally. That little cloud could easily foreshadow difficult emotions.

Just by describing this change of weather, you plant a little seed for the reader to expect a future event. This, of course, also works in the other direction. Just think of the Bible when Noah saw the sky clearing up. He knew that God’s anger was lessening as well.

5. Weather As A Source Of Conflict

Braving the weather means we withstand the elements. This can create situations where a cast of characters needs to show their true colours.

Imagine people on a deserted island in the Caribbean. Everybody gets along well when the sun is shining, and fish are plenty. Now introduce a thunderstorm. You will have people fighting for shelter and the only remaining fish.

6. Weather As A Motif

In the Hollywood movie L.A. Story (1991), actor Steve Martin plays a TV weatherman. He prerecords his forecasts because the weather in L.A. is always the same. His usual comment ‘Sunny and 72’ becomes a funny catchphrase in the story.

That way, the weather is introduced as the main character’s occupation and is used as a motif throughout the movie. It starts as a cliché, which becomes the source of ridicule (the temperature in his forecasts doesn’t even change one degree). In the end, the weather finally acts almost like a character (please read on).

7. Weather As An Acting Force

This is where the weather becomes most interesting! Let’s go back to the movie ‘L.A. Story.’ The TV weatherman falls in love with Sara, who at some point wants to leave the city by plane. But the story has shown us so far that these two are meant to be together. How can this be resolved?

The weather makes it possible. A rainstorm prevents the plane from taking off, and Sara is reunited with her weatherman. The weather needed to take action, or the narrative would not have reached a happy ending.

This is not the only story in which the weather took centre stage. Look at the classics! Many ancient gods had attributes connected to the weather: Zeus had bolts of lightning, and Tempestas was the Roman goddess of storms and sudden weather (guess where the word ‘tempest’ comes from!). The Egyptians had four gods for wind (one for each direction). In Russian folklore, Santa Claus is known as Father Frost. These classic characters act through the weather!

The weather is ultimately the way humans experience the force of the elements. We can all choose to ignore the weather, but we can’t escape it.

The Last Word

Make the weather work for your stories. Don’t just mention it; let it give an extra layer to your setting, increase the showing,  add conflict, and even function as if it were a character. I hope I have been able to show just how exciting the weather can be.

There’s one more thing: the weather can take over your language. There are so many idioms and phrases connected to the weather! If you’d like to know more, then please watch out for my next post. It’ll include a cheat sheet with ’80 Weather Expressions.’

Susanne Bennett

By Susanne Bennett.

Susanne  is a German-American writer who is a journalist by trade and a writer by heart. After years of working at German public radio and an online news portal, she has decided to accept challenges by Deadlines for Writers. Currently she is writing her first novel with them. She is known for overweight purses and carrying a novel everywhere. Follow her on Facebook.

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Posted on: 5th December 2022