It’s snowing its brains out today, and that makes me think about weather. (Oh, really, Captain Obvious?) Shut up, self. Anyway, it makes me think about weather IN FICTION. They say you shouldn’t start your book or story with a description of the weather, but I think they mean a boring description. Well, duh! You shouldn’t start out with a boring anything, or put a boring anything anywhere in your story. Except food. You can put food anywhere. If that bores some people, that’s their problem.
Weather, though. Weather shouldn’t be put in just to build your word count (unless you’re three weeks into NaNoWriMo and you only have 25,000 words done). If you use weather, it should be used as part of the plot, setting, character or theme. I mean, THE PERFECT STORM, right?
Like any other element of story-telling, weather (if you use it as more than a passing reference) should contribute to the story.
I DON’T CARE:
Since it was a nice day, Lucy decided to wear her light-weight windbreaker.
Lucy couldn’t decide whether to wear her light-weight windbreaker and be chilly this morning and comfortable this afternoon, or her lined jacket and be comfortable this morning and overheated this afternoon. She took the light jacket out and put one arm into the sleeve, then took it back off and hung it up. She touched the heavy jacket, then pulled back. Her stomach hurt. Maybe she wouldn’t go at all.
See, in the second paragraph, I worry that Lucy will need to be cool and collected in the afternoon but be all sweated up, or encumbered by carrying the jacket. Or maybe she’ll have to be outdoors in the morning and be too cold to notice something important in her rush to get into the warm. At the very least, I know that Lucy obsesses over apparently trivial decisions and short-circuits herself.
When I do the rewrites on my NaNo book, PICKLE IN A PEAR TREE, I plan to put some weather-centric stuff into it. It’s set during the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season, and there will naturally be cold and snow, so I might as well use the weather to enhance the story, since it’ll be there, anyway. No sense letting the weather just lounge around, eating me out of house and home, when it could be doing an honest day’s work.
WRITING PROMPT: Write a paragraph in which you use weather to help define someone’s character.
p.s. Be sure to join me tomorrow when Victoria Klein guests, talking about her new book on sustainable living.