Weather Thesaurus Entry: Hurricane/Typhoon

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).

Aside: Dear God, as a sacrifice, I humbly and somewhat desperately offer up this hurricane entry that I have written from my south Florida home--a home that I would very much like to remain intact. Please let this entry take the place of any named monstrosities that may come barreling toward the coast this hurricane season. Amen.

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight: Rain blowing sideways, decreased to zero visibility, huge ocean waves, trees breaking in half, blown-down trees blocking the roads, debris flying through the air and rolling along the ground, flooding low areas, overflowing pools/ditches/ponds/lakes, houses with the windows boarded or covered with hurricane shutters, downed power poles and lines, widespread power outages

Smell: water, ozone

Taste: n/a

Touch:  the house shivering and trembling as winds buffet it, rain pelting and pouring through holes in the roof or broken windows, steadily warming air as the power and a/c go off

Sound: rain pinging against the windows, howling/moaning/shrieking winds, debris crashing into the shutters, fluctuating noise volume as heavier bands of rain and wind pass by

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: There's nothing quite like being enclosed in a boarded-up house that's being pummeled by 100mph winds. This situation quickly becomes claustrophobic, especially in the heat of summer when the power goes out. Hurricanes create an atmosphere of fear and worry as people sit in the dark and wonder how bad it's going to get. The mood becomes very tense and oppressive very quickly.

Symbolism: power, destruction, God, fate

Possible Cliches: Can't think of any!

OTHER: Hurricanes and typhoons are storms that form over tropical water and have sustained winds of over 74 mph. Hurricanes form in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and eastern Pacific Oceans. Storms that form in the western Pacific across the International Date Line are called typhoons. Storms are categorized 1-5, with 5 being the most severe. The strength of a storm's winds can cause massive destruction, as can the excessive rain from a milder, slower-moving storm. While lightning and thunder don't accompany most hurricanes and typhoons, they do often appear alongside the stronger category 4 and 5 storms.

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.

17 comments:

Stacy said...

Great post! My thriller is set in Las Vegas in the summer, so there's focus on the sun, heat, etc. But after reading this, I know there are more sensory descriptions I can add.

Laura Pauling said...

We just had a flash thunderstorm the other day with high winds and my kids were scared. It started a great discussion though about the tornados happening recently.

tracikenworth said...

Hope your loved ones and house stays safe!! May any storms out there pass you by completely. Great entry. We forget sometimes how destructive Nature can be until we see the aftermath.

Christina Lee said...

NICE!! I like storm metaphors too (but not too many). I hope your home stays intact too *fingers crossed*

Matthew MacNish said...

There's got to be some kind of hurricane related cliche. Maybe the lonely fishing boat caught out at sea?

I don't know. Great post, otherwise!

Angela Ackerman said...

I think of you every tropical storm season Becca, living where you do in Florida. Hugs & hope you are always kept out of harms way.

Great entry, as always. I could really feel what it must be like, even tho I've never experienced it first hand, and that's exactly what our job is as writers--well done!

Angela

Barbara Watson said...

Weather affects who I am and how I feel on any given day, but honestly, it's neglected in my WIP at the moment. Thank you for this post. (and may hurricanes stay away from you and others)

MG Higgins said...

Thank you for this post! Great information. And here's hoping for a calm hurricane season.

Amanda said...

I love when I can feel the weather in the stories I read.

Also, great prayer/offering -- I am certain it will counteract any future storm effects!

Heather said...

This gives me chills. I can almost taste the coming storm. Love it!

angelafrancis said...

love it!!!

ralfast said...

Having survived several hurricanes. I can tell you that the waiting is grating, as is the long hours with nothing to do, and the days after with extreme heat (no wind to speak off) and no utilities.

Happy fun times for all!

Pam Torres said...

The only cliche I can think of is the "quiet before the storm". Great descriptors and images.Thanks.

The Golden Eagle said...

Interesting! I just read a book that had a hurricane--What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell. What a coincidence.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Okay - your aside has me seriously worried. :( Unfortunately many can write from first hand experience I guess. Hopefully the worst is over.

Great entry.

Jeff King said...

Nice... I am beginning to wonder when you'll run out of Thesaurus'

Leslie Rose said...

I was caught in hurricane Iniki in Hawaii back in the 90's. It was pretty darn scary - palm trees bent all the way to the ground. Afterwards I remember the ocean looking unnaturally high. It looked like it should burst and pour over the land. I hope you came through yours unscathed.

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