Jul 27 2008

Writing Tip of the Day: Don’t Spend Too Much Time on Weather

Published by at 3:40 pm under Writing Articles

Describing the weather sometimes helps develop the story’s mood and can emotionally affect the audience. However, I have a few main problems with the weather.

1. Authors tend to spend too much describing the weather independent of the characters. I recommend showing the characters interacting with the weather, ideally either raising the stakes or developing the character. If you’re writing a chase scene in the rain, one character might slip in a puddle as he’s trying to get away or struggle through the winds. Your protagonist’s wedding might be moved inside if it starts hailing, but if he’s stubborn enough maybe he’d refuse to move it.

2. Mentioning the weather in the first sentence of a book is rarely effective (“it was a dark and stormy night”). Your opening sentence has to convince readers to keep going and it’s difficult to imagine weather doing that. If you’d like to mention the weather anyway, I’d recommend using it to develop the lead character. For example, your opening sentence might be something like “Private Perkins hated the rain.” That’s not a great opening, but it uses the rain to faintly suggest that Perkins is unhappy because his life is boring and dour.

3. Please use weather in unexpected ways. Publishers have seen a lot of manuscripts that use dark storms to feel foreboding, or light-and-sunny weather to feel cheerful, or rain to feel sad and moody.  When the guy finally gets the girl, why does it have to be sunny?  I think it would be more dramatic if they passionately embraced in a light hail, myself.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Writing Tip of the Day: Don’t Spend Too Much Time on Weather”

  1. Marissaon 25 Mar 2009 at 7:52 am

    Was just reading back through these writing tips (the perks of being bored between 4 and 7 AM) and I’d like to point out one exception to number two:

    Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld.

    His opening line is, if I recall, “The sky was the color of cat vomit.”

    Then again, he breaks a number of your rules, with that book. No made-up words in the title, or on the first page, for one.

    If you’ve not read that and the rest of its series, I highly recommend it.

  2. B. Macon 25 Mar 2009 at 7:58 am

    It’s certainly unexpected.

  3. Marissaon 25 Mar 2009 at 8:01 am

    It’s better than it sounds, really.

    I mean, the protagonist goes on to say what you had to feed the cat to get it that color.

    After the splattery-bird story I tripped over, this seems right up your alley. ;D

    Honestly, the book is amazing, as are the two after it.

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