Sunday, April 3, 2011

Controlling The Weather in Your Manuscript

Who says you can’t control the weather? You can in your manuscript, and what’s more, you can use it to enhance the mood, guide the plot, or boost the climax.

The weather plays a part in our daily lives: what we wear, how we plan events. The same can be said for your characters. They, too, can notice the temperature outside, what the sky looks like, how the air feels. Your characters’ observations ground them (and the reader!) in the setting, and add a layer of realism to your story.

The weather can also be symbolic of an underlying theme: Rain can symbolize sadness, despair, or new life; a blanket of snow may represent a feeling of stagnation, or hibernation; wind and storms often denote foreshadow a violent event; fog or mist are often the prelude to a revelation or another important event; moving clouds often represent change; thunder, the voice of God or gods, and so on.

For example, in “Dracula”, Bram Stoker chose London’s rainy, foggy climate to enhance his Gothic novel. Count Dracula can control the weather, creating mists to hide his presence. When he arrives in England, one of the worst storms ever recorded takes place, which, incidentally, he created for his grand entrance.

In “The Great Gatsby”, F. Scott Fitzgerald used the weather to chart his character’s moods—rain for tension, sun for laughter. Daisy ultimately has to choose between going away with Gatsby, or staying with Tom—on the hottest day of the year. The weather perfectly connects with the conflict.

On a more contemporary note, Stephenie Myer successfully created an eerie atmosphere when she chose Forks, Washington for the setting of “Twilight”. The rain (even of the freezing variety) is a backdrop in the story, providing a feeling of chilly foreboding. Bella moves from her comfort zone in sunny, hot Arizona to the constant cloud cover and rain of Forks, symbolizing her progression to a much more mysterious world.

In science fiction and fantasy, the sky is the limit (so to speak) when it comes to adding weather to your manuscript. When you are world building, the weather becomes a crucial element, and you are in control. Volcanoes, floods, earthquakes, wind, rainbows, and lightning are magically yours to command, and vividly express to your readers.

On a much grander scale, many writers use weather as an “event”.  In “State of Fear”, Michael Critchton used global warming as the backdrop for the story, wherein the main villains are environmentalists. In Stephen King’s “Dolores Claiborne”, the tension of the story mounts as a total eclipse of the sun looms. Of course, this type of writing can be tricky; research is key.

In my YA Paranormal Romance, WIND, I use wind (naturally!) to signify the strength and awesome power of the angel, Dante, who arrives in Flynn Flood's life just when she needs him.  The story takes place in the fall and winter, so, at first, the wind is a subtle foe, swirling leaves and bringing colder air.  As the story progresses, the wind and snow is a catalyst for the evil which soon arrives in the form of the evil Lix Tetrax. 

In WIND, Dante explains the meaning of the name Lix Tetrax:

“The name Lix is Greek, referring to the Earth, and Tetrax refers to the four seasons.  Technically, he’s called the Demon of the Wind.  He’s definitely full of hot air.”

Whatever the weather, don’t forget to add a splash of rain, a mysterious fog, or a perfect, sunny day. Used appropriately and imaginatively, weather will have a huge impact on your story.

How’s the weather in your manuscript?


Austin James said...

I love to make it rain in stories... I actually write more when it's raining, so maybe that's why.

Plus, most of my stories are set in the NorthWest and it rains pretty often up here.

Cynthia Watson said...

I agree, Austin, I love the rain in a good book.

Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

I love to play weather god in my manuscripts.

I've read books that have a great atmosphere, with weather playing a big part.