Autumn is my favorite time of the year. I love the crisp cool days and bright blue skies.
Can this feeling translate to writing?
Weather can become an important item to set the temperament of the scene or the entire novel.
In the movie “Blade Runner,” a Harrison Ford film just after his “Star Wars” days, the mood is dark and melancholy. It rains throughout the movie. Thus, weather sets the tone and almost becomes a character.
In my novel, “Grow Old With Me,” I used weather to set the mood of the scene and to show character emotions. I’ll quote a few examples.
Conversation dwindled as they concentrated on the trail. Her saddle creaked when she leaned left to brush aside brown tendrils of kudzu. The vines towered above them like forgotten party streamers. Frost glistened on the dried foliage where a few rays of sunlight penetrated the forest canopy.
Eerie silence assaulted her; too quiet for comfort. No birds sang. No breeze stirred the barren limbs on this cold November morning. Shrouded in the tomb-like covering, she pulled in a deep breath. It chilled her lungs and dried her lips even more. A squirrel ratcheted its warning call from a tree on her right. She jerked her head toward the sound, gasped, and reined Jasper to an abrupt halt.
Relaxed, Pleasant, Calm:
A gentle breeze ruffled Sarah’s hair. It would carry a nip by evening. Miserably hot August had slipped into pleasant September. Since the break in the heat wave, the days invited outdoor activity. Sarah pulled a chaise lounge into the sun beside Becky. The warmth on the deck behind the Spangler’s house encouraged a nap before their picnic. She leaned back, yawned, and scanned the expanse above the treetops. The sky had cast off its hazy cloud-patched quilt. Brilliant Carolina blue announced autumn’s arrival after a cleansing rain several days ago.
Benjamin laid his hammer and chisel on the stone hearth to grab warmer clothes from his pack. Rain drummed on the roof. The thermostat was covered and locked. The switch said OFF. No wonder he couldn’t get warm. He pulled a sweatshirt from his pack and slipped it on over the turtleneck he’d changed into. If that didn’t help, he’d go ask the pastor to turn on some heat. Rain pounded harder. If these stormy days continued, he’d never finish the new contract for repairs to a storefront on Main Street.
The street uptown was a quagmire. They’d postponed filming until the sun returned. It was bad enough when Sarah allowed Fairmont to stay after his first drunken evening. Now she’d agreed to let him stay to complete filming.
Benjamin wasn’t exactly angry with Sarah. Worried fit better. His mind kept chasing bad scenarios. Fairmont wasn’t hanging around the inn waiting for the rain to cease. He’d wandered off to parts unknown. No one had a clue where he’d gone. Steve was combing bars in Statesville, Wilkesboro, and the surrounding areas. Others were looking for his car on the back roads.
A cold chill slithered down Benjamin’s back like some slimy reptile from Kudzu Territory. In his opinion Sarah’s money worries clouded her judgment.
Uncertainty & Discomfort moves to Cozy:
Lightning illuminated the room, and thunder boomed directly overhead. Sarah startled. Her hand flew to her chest. The lights blinked off and came back on. “Let’s move to the sitting room and start a fire. I’ll get dessert and coffee before we end up in darkness.”
Minutes later, they’d placed an oil lamp for each bedroom on a table in the foyer. “Thanks. I’ll stay in the sitting area until all my guests return. Feel free to do whatever you like after we enjoy dessert.”
His excuse to leave, but the soft glow of the candlelight on her almost flawless skin stirred something in him. Maybe he didn’t want to leave. A radiant fire on the stone hearth. Feet propped on an ottoman. Reading by lamplight. Did he want company? Strange notion. The scenario sounded infinitely better than his room upstairs where battery-powered emergency lights illuminated the exits.
“I’m not much of a talker, but reading beside the fireplace would be nice if you don’t mind company.”
“I’d like that.” She honored his hesitancy to converse.
The power blinked off as they finished their cake. Benjamin arranged tables and chairs so the lamps and candles provided better light for reading.
The storm rolled around all evening, rumbling across the valley and whistling around the eaves. Emergency lights over the foyer door didn’t spoil the coziness beside the fireplace.
I could list many sections from my book where weather becomes a tool to set the tone or acts as a secondary character.
- Think of movies or TV shows where weather plays a role. Name the mood it creates. Does the weather relate to the character’s feelings?
- Try writing a scene where weather portrays the emotions of your characters.
- Create a list of “weather emotions.” Remember, sunny may not always mean happy, and rain doesn’t need to reflect sadness. For example, strong sun is a challenge and rain might be a blessing in a parched desert.
- Keep this list on file and pull from it as you write.