Weather Thesaurus Entry: Thunderstorm

WEATHER is an important element in any setting, providing sensory texture and contributing to the mood the writer wishes to create in a scene. With a deft touch, weather can enhance the character's emotional response to a specific location, it can add conflict, and it can also (lightly) foreshadow coming events.

However, caution must accompany this entry: the weather should not be used as a window into a character's soul. The weather can add invisible pressure for the character, it can layer the SCENE with symbolism, it can carefully hint at the internal landscape, but it must never OVERTLY TELL emotion. Such a heavy-handed approach results in weather clichés and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight:
Heavy gray clouds obscuring the sky, trees/bushes/grassing bending and whipping in the wind, rain pouring down, drops bouncing off the pavement, water running downhill and pooling in low spot, drops racing down a window, flashes of lightning, the after burn effect of seeing the forked lightning on your closed lids after it has hit, twilight darkness that requires turning lights on in the middle of the day

Smell:
Moisture, humidity, earthiness (in rural areas), damp wood, hot asphalt being cooled, a fresh clean smell following the storm, ozone

Taste:
water

Touch:
A sense of heaviness or weightiness in the air, wind whipping your hair and clothes, strong winds knocking you off balance so you have to lean into them, rain being driven into your face, sodden weight of soaked hair and clothes, blurry feel of water running into your eyes, thunder vibrating up through the floor

Sound:
Booming thunder as the sound waves from the lightning reach your ears, windows rattling, rain pounding on the roof, rain pinging against glass windows, an overall elevated noise from the rain that causes you to turn up the TV or talk louder to overcome it, sharp cracking sound of lightning striking something nearby, sudden quiet as the power goes out

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: The air before a thunderstorm grows heavier and more 'charged' as a storm builds, giving many people (and animals, actually) an unsettled, antsy feeling. The air can get so heavy and humid that it feels weighted, as if it's pressing down on you. For these reasons, along with the inconvenience these storms cause as people try to go about their daily lives, thunderstorms often naturally create a mood of oppression and unease.

Symbolism: Oppression, release, power, confrontation

Possible Clichés: A clap of thunder signaling an important or ominous event, a storm building and breaking as a plot conflict comes to a head, a storm heralding an evil presence or happening

OTHER: To form, thunderclouds require warm, moist air. They don't commonly occur in places where the air is typically cool or dry. This is why thunderstorms happen most frequently in the late spring and summer months. Thunderstorms differ from regular rainstorms in that they usually don't last more than an hour or so, whereas rainfall can go on for days. Lightning is electricity; as such it can cause some specific dangers that have to be taken seriously. To be safe when lightning is present, people should avoid bodies of water, being in wide open places, and standing near tall objects (don't take shelter under a tree, for instance). Severe thunderstorms can also spawn hail and tornadoes; these weather phenomena will be addressed in other entries.

Don't be afraid to use the weather to add contrast. Unusual pairings, especially when drawing attention to the character's emotions, is a powerful trigger for tension. A timid, weak person may be empowered by the force of a thunderstorm to take bold action. In contrast, a thunderstorm occurring in a place where storms are infrequent might bring about excitement or anticipation in an otherwise sedate character.

23 comments:

Robyn_Lucas said...

Great post! Needed this today.

Hugs!

Traci Kenworth said...

Spooky picture. Brings ideas to mind...

Bish Denham said...

Boy, could we use some thunderstorms here in Texas. We are burning up both literally and figuratively. Something like a million acres up in smoke, hundreds of homes destroyed.

Mysti said...

Love scenes during thunderstorms are nice :)

Matthew MacNish said...

My favorite thunderstorm related smell is that slight ozone like aroma that tells you lightning is coming.

Another great entry, thanks Becca!

Angela Ackerman said...

Great job, Becca! Matt I love that ozone smell too & love to watch storms!

Lisa Gail Green said...

I'm just loving these because I use weather a lot (more than I thought until I saw this). :D

Mary Witzl said...

I like to use weather to support my characters' moods, but I worry about cliches. There's a fine line between using a storm to create tension and ending up with dark-and-stormy-night obviousness.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oooo, good one! As always, I love it. :-)

Karen said...

Hi Becca,

Oooo, I like that. I am always affected by the weather and I need to remember my characters should be too. Thanks!

Jeff King said...

GREAT point… looking back through my WIP, I realize I could use this tip in my work to give the settings more realism, and sharpen the mood.

Thx…

kathrynjankowski said...

My YA WIP features the god of thunder, so this is a timely, wonderful resource. Thanks!

Karen Lange said...

I am writing a scene now, and you know, I suddenly have the urge to add a thunderstorm! Who knew? Thanks for all your great info! :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love thunderstorms. Just as long as the lightning doesn't come near my house.

We watched a house in my neighbourhood burn a few years ago after it was struck by lightning.

This is an amazing resource. And thanks for reminding writers NOT use weather to show the character's emotions. :D

Laura Pauling said...

Great job! I love thunderstorms! Especially right before one when there is a warm muggy wind and the sky is dark. Love it!

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss becca! cool post. mostly im scared of thunder and lightening storms and i get my head buried in a blanket. ha ha. i like these weather posts cause for sure they could help make a story way more alive.
...hugs from lenny

Robyn Campbell said...

Great post. I love the thunder and lightening as long as ALL family members are in the house. I will use this thesaurus for sure. Awesomely wicked!

Owllady said...

I have to say "congrats" on spelling lightning properly. Some folks mess that up ;)

Good post too, guys.

Janet, said...

Good post. I have lots of thunderstorms in my MG manuscript. Lightning,thunder, fallen trees, flooded roads, wind swishing, hiding in caves, rain pounding on tin roof, and seeing shadows among the trees when lightning streaks across the sky.

Marcia said...

I love thunderstorms too -- BUT we just had a thunder-snowstorm on April 19. 9.5 inches. Fortunately, it's almost all gone already. But, really?

Leslie Rose said...

Love the weather angle. I'm fascinated by clouds and storms. I have a hurricane and tornadoes on my dance card as well. Weather is definitely a player!

Liana Brooks said...

Petrichor is the word for "the smell after rain" in case anyone ever wants to get technical.

Becca Puglisi said...

I'm adding in the ozone which, if you can believe it, I've never smelled. But I have a TERRIBLE sense of smell. I could be playing with my babies for half an hour and my husband will walk in the room and say, "Who's poopy?" I'm like, "Huh?"

So thanks for the reminder!

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