Weather Thesaurus Entry: Hailstorm

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 cliches and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).



A hailstorm is incredibly dangerous to anything exposed to it. High velocity balls of snow and ice rain down, varying in size from tiny BB pellets to baseball-sized objects that can dent metal or punch through glass or plastic. Typically hail is accompanied or preceded by rain and starts off small. As the eye of the storm moves overhead, ice falls from the sky, bouncing when it hits and throwing up small splashes of water. The accompanying cloud cover causes a grey cast to the air and visibility is very poor. Driving is dangerous, as is being out in the open. Hailstorms are quick and fierce, but are usually over within minutes, leaving behind a carpet of white ice. Even a mild storm can damage plants and trees, shredding foliage.




Ozone (a metallic tang on the tongue when breathing through the mouth), water


The stinging sensation of the speeding balls of ice will trigger the flight response. If caught out in a storm, people and animals will make haste to find any protection available to get away from the hard pellets. Hail, depending on size,can cut or bruise and is certainly painful. In extreme cases, hail can break bones, crush skulls and even kill. Arms are held over the head for protection, the neck is ducked as people run for the nearest form of shelter. Water soaks through clothing and hair, and an instant chill floods the skin with shivers. Teeth may chatter, and often a breeze is felt on the skin as air is displaced by the speeding missiles, adding to the sensation of cold and wet. Fingers and other extremities feel numb as a person huddles, arms tight to the body to conserve warmth as they wait out the storm. Heart rate increases as does adrenaline from the triggered flight response and as a person checks reddened skin for welts.


The acoustics of a hailstorm depend on the location. If hail falls in a wooded area, the sound would mimic a hard rain as the ice pellets connect with leaves on the way down. If a metal roof is overhead (a warehouse, car hardtop, shed, etc) the pounding roar is deafening and people have to shout to be heard. An insistent pinging or drumming is heard in a lighter storm as ice bounces off wooden decks and pings against the window. The sound of the hail becomes absolute even in the smallest storm, drowning out the sounds of other contributors nearby.


Mood: A hailstorm is a strong reminder of human fragility and the awesome force of nature. The strength and fury of such an event can create room for external reflection no matter what internal stress levels might be, or even bring about a spiritual moment. We cannot help but watch in fascination and awe at the destructive force of the weather, and the brief, fierce storm cal allow characters in a scene to come together through the experience of the event. Momentarily, all other concerns are forgotten as the storm pounds the earth. Hailstorms can also create conflict for characters, foiling plans and hampering efforts toward a goal.

Symbolism: The power of nature, Godly disfavor, unpredictability, that humans have not yet harnessed control and dominion over all things.

Possible Cliches: 

Nothing that stands out!


Hail most often occurs in Spring and sometimes Summer. It can be a precursor to more violent weather such as tornadoes. Temperature suffers a sudden drop when hail hits as millions of bits of ice cool the air. Hail can causes extreme damage to vehicles and homes.

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. Consider how the bleak mood of a character is even more noticeable as morning sunlight dances across the crystals of fresh snow on the walk to work. Or how the feeling of betrayal is so much more poignant on a hot summer day. Likewise, success or joy can be hampered by a cutting wind or drizzling sleet, foreshadowing conflict to come.


Madeline Bartos said...

Awesome post and descriptions! I don't think I've ever read a book where it started hailing. It's definitely unique. ;)

Matthew MacNish said...

Ozone for the win! I have used that term several times when writing about weather.

deepamwadds said...

Wonderful post. Weather speaks volumes but it has to be used with subtlety. Thanks for this!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I'm loving these weather entries. I think weather is an area we too often forget to include. :-)

Heather said...

The metallic tang on the back of the tongue put me right there! Oooo, loved this one! Your posts are always bookmark worthy. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Ozone! Now that would be a great taste to use.

Carol Riggs said...

Argh, thanks for the reminder not to be TOO obvious with the weather being a window to the character's soul and emotions. *makes note to self to check manuscript*

Jeff King said...

once again you nailed it... nice job.

Kelly said...

HAIL, yeah!

Diane Fordham said...

Thanks for the post, very inspiring and thought provoking. Will definitely be useful in my writing. :-)

Laura Pauling said...

Awesome picture. Hail is something pretty incredible and scary! Thanks for all your work!

Catherine A. Winn said...

We are in the middle of a drought and as badly as we want rain, I'll take the drought over hail anytime!

Lisa Gail Green said...

There is nothing freakier than a warm, clear day when ice suddenly starts pelting down from above. *shudders* Good one!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Hail is the weirdest thing. :) I lived in a desert, too, so our weather was really weird. Great post!

Stephanie, PQW said...

You've been tagged. My blog will tell you why I did it. Here's a hint...You blog is awesome!

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks everyone. I admit, I love hailstorms. One of my favorite memories is standing in the garage watching my two boys run around the cul-d-sac screaming and splashing, trying to prove they were 'men' and could take it. LOL.

Kelly, Hail Yeah! You crack me up!

Stephanie, I'll stop in asap! Thanks so much!

You guys are all awesome, and I know you're busy, so I always appreciate the visits and comments. :)
Happy weekend!


Julie Musil said...

This so awesome! Thanks a lot

Karen Lange said...

Good stuff! (I know, I say that a lot when I visit.:) I think it's interesting too, to watch how the weather is used in movies.

Have a great weekend,

tracikenworth said...


ralfast said...

I like the fact that many a hailstorm occurs in balmy hot days. The juxtaposition is shocking to say the least as if the world had gone mad.


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