Weather Thesaurus Entry: Sunshine

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).

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight: Sunshine brightens all surroundings and makes colors appear more vivid. It casts a gleam against any shiny or smooth surface and causes glittering prisms on mirrored or reflective ones. Sunlight appears to 'move' when it reflects on fluid surfaces (lakes, ponds, etc) and draws attention. Natural foliage (trees, leaves, flowers) grow toward sunlight, causing a natural 'lean' in the direction of the strongest source. Sunlight is sometimes visible as rays slanting through clouds or a canopy of trees.

Smell: Sunshine on its own does not carry a smell, but the warming properties of sunlight brings out the smells of other things. Sun-warmed stone, metal and earth all have distinctive odors. Sun creates and encourages growth of greenery, so as flowers open to the light source, the air will carry a perfumed fragrance. Likewise, sunlight warming garbage bags at the curb, dog poop on the front lawn or a rat corpse in an alleyway will enhance these negative odors as well.

Taste: No taste, but excessive sun will cause dehydration and dry mouth.

Touch: The warmth of sunlight is an extremely powerful and pleasing sensation. Hair follicles rise and skin tingles under the heat. Surfaces will warm according to their abilities to absorb and trap heat--a leather car seat can sear the skin, bare feet on pavement can turn a slow walker into a quick cat leaper to a safer surface like cool grass or a piece of shade. As body temperature increases, people will take off outer layers of clothing or even seek shade and shelter. Increased sun will bring about a sheen of sweat and gradually become discomforting if exposure it prolonged, resulting in hot and sometimes painful sunburn.

Sound: The sunlight itself carries no sound, but depending on the strength of it and the associated heat levels, animals, insects and humans may not be as active, conserving energy during the hottest part of the day, which will create an absence of sound.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: Sunlight can create a languid, relaxed feeling in any scene, and naturally triggers positive emotions and thoughts. Worries seem lessened in the sunlight and encourages a good mood in those in the scene. Seen as 'good weather', sunlight often strips away any natural obstacles that could impede action. Sunlight can also create a sense of false security and safety as emotions misinterpret the wash of warmth.

Symbolism: A bright outlook, purity, life, safety, happiness, positive energy, a God's favor, summertime

Possible Cliches: Comparing sunshine to the brightness of a soul; using the feel of sunshine to induce a daydreaming state allowing the character to focus on memory/back-story

OTHER: Sunlight is critical to most growing environments, and while is present in all four season, is the strongest in Summer. Depending on the season and temperature, sunlight can act as little more than a presence of light, or it can blaze down painfully, burning anything exposed to its rays.

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.

22 comments:

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Great posting, as always. I especially like the image of doing the "cat leap" from hot pavement onto the cool grass.

Trisha said...

For me, sunshine triggers depression. LOL. Unless it's a nice mild spring sunshiney day. I can't stand the heat of summer though. GAHHH!

Laura Pauling said...

Thanks for all your hard work! :)

Matthew MacNish said...

ForeSHADOWING. Get it?

Just kidding. I do love how sunlight is absolutely unlike any other light. There is nothing as pure or as powerful as sunlight.

Unless you're a vampire.

tracikenworth said...

I could almost feel the beat of the sunshine on my shoulder blades. You're right, it can serve a dual purpose. It can enrich our lives, or make us cripple under its rays.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Wow, I just love this new thesaurus. :D

Bluestocking said...

This is going to be another great resource! I love the emotional triggers!

Susanne Drazic said...

Wonderful post, as usual.

I think you can "taste" the sun in a a warm tomato, just picked of the vine. The best way to eat them.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Love this, love the "Conceited" entry below this, love The Bookshelf Muse!! :-)

Lisa Gail Green said...

ANOTHER great one!! How do you do it?

Angela Ackerman said...

Aw Trisha, I'm sorry about that. But it is a good point that sun can also be strength and will-sapping, too.

Lisa, all I do is capture a bunch of leprechauns, lock them in the cellar, poke them with unicorns mercilessly until they type out each entry with bleeding fing-- er, I mean, it's all me of course! *nervous smile* *kicks cellar door*

lil red hen said...

These are very helpful -- thanks for your continued good work.

Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

Reading these entries always inspires me to strengthen my scenes. Thank you so much!

~Debbie

Leslie Rose said...

Love this. I will be referring to the Weather Thesaurus over and over. It's inspiring. The sun evokes power for me and makes me think of sun gods in mythology.

Heather said...

Now I feel all wonderful and warm! I love this one. Perfect for the coming of summer. Which will hopefully reach where I live, someday...

The Golden Eagle said...

Another great post--this is an awesome thesaurus!

I love contrast between the weather/character's emotions. I find it can lead me to wonder what's going to happen; if it means something, or if it's just coincidence.

Cat said...

Excellent. I loved this entry. Beautifully written, and SO concise!

E.J. Wesley said...

Awesome write up as usual, Ange!

I actually stopped by to say 'thank you' for your support during my A-Z blogging month. I've created a fun "no strings attached" blog award for you and all of the other awesome bloggers who offered feedback and encouragement.

You can view the award and my thank you note here:
http://the-open-vein-ejwesley.blogspot.com/2011/06/im-back-bringing-love.html

Hope you are well and that I see you around in the future!

EJ

Jeff King said...

Great pic... and awesome post. thx

Carrie Butler said...

I love your blog!

Today, I paid tribute to it in mine: http://soyoureawriter.blogspot.com/2011/06/thesaur-ish-thursday.html

Have a good one! :)

Medeia Sharif said...

I love this entry for sunshine. I live in a sunny place and most of my settings are sunny as well.

Larissa said...

Hey, please stop by my blog to pick up your reward!

http://teacherwritebookaholicohmy.blogspot.com/2011/06/my-first-blog-award.html

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