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Make Weather Match Your Mood

by BLH on March 13th, 2012

The recent burst of warmth where I live has gotten me thinking about how weather can feature in your writing. Sure, on the surface nothing could sound more boring — who wants to read a book about the humidity level? But weather can actually heighten and intensify the emotions at the center of your story. Many great novels use storms or blazing heart, blizzards or flash floods, to reflect and parallel the drama going on in the story; this technique is called pathetic fallacy. As long as you don’t lean too heavily on the dark and stormy nights, it can beautifully enrich the scene you’re trying to create.

Think about creating a mood.
Great works of art all cultivate strong moods; it’s very difficult, and usually distracting, to have more than one mood on display at a time. Think about the set design of a play, the lighting and costumes in a horror movie, or all the details of a time-period-driven show like Downton Abbey. They’re all working in one direction, carefully chosen to create a certain mood, whether it’s a mood of spookiness or anger or dereliction or excitement. These pieces are chosen to complement the mood of the actual characters and their problems.

Let the natural world reflect your characters’ anxieties.
That’s the great thing about fiction: in reality, it would seem silly to say that it’s raining because we’re sad, but in stories we can easily do it. Let gloomy weather signal a turn for the worse in your story, or a rare patch of sunshine signal a return of hope. It’s as simple as that! Weather is surprisingly important in our lives, and it can have a tremendous impact on our outlook on life during a particular day. Let your reader become fully engaged in the mood you’re cultivating by keeping the weather consistent.

Use a light touch.
At the same time, you don’t want to be too heavy-handed about this stuff. Your reader will start getting suspicious if you imply that the weather is a certain way because your characters feel a certain way, or if you make the weather just too perfect for the mood. Think about how weather works in reality: when you’re down in the dumps, a cloudy day can push you that much farther down; when you’re feeling happy and joyful, the sun seems to shine just for you.

From → The Writing Life

  1. What I got from this was DOWNTON ABBEY!!!!!!!! Ok, ok, not just that. But you’re absolutely right, it’s a prime example of using detail and subtlety to create a solid mood.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  2. Weather used subtly is such a great tool. I added oppressive heat to a day that would end in violence. The intense sun added to the tension and made the scene much better than the previous version.

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