Weather Thesaurus Entry: Wind

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: leaves lightly fluttering, branches blowing, treetops bent sideways, brasses blowing, clouds drifting or racing across the sky, leaves and flowers tearing loose, debris rolling along the ground, hair and clothing whipping around, people being pushed off balance, waves being churned up, sand/dirt/snow blowing

Smell: rain, smoke

Taste: dirt, rain, sand

Touch: whipping hair stinging your face, clothes flapping around your legs and arms, chapped lips and dry skin, quick-blinking eyes to keep out debris, a loss of equilibrium as the wind buffets you off-balance, increased heat or cold depending on the temperature of the wind, the comfort of a cool breeze on a hot day, wind-blown sand stinging your skin, humidity

Sound: howling/moaning/sighing, branches tapping against walls and windows, leaves rubbing together, twigs and leaves skittering along the ground

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: Light breezes are often soothing, particularly on a hot day when they offer a break from the heat. The danger of high winds can trigger anxiety as we wonder how bad the weather's going to get and if it will affect our homes or loved ones. Even a lack of wind can produce a feeling of stillness and either a positive or negative anticipation--waiting, as if for something to happen.

Symbolism: Rising winds can symbolize a coming change in the form of something good (rain after a drought) or something bad (a hailstorm in farm country). High winds can represent destruction or approaching danger. Certain breezes can also provide a temporal clue and put the reader in a seasonal frame of mind: light and airy breezes remind us of the rebirth of spring; rising winds accompanied by rain, thunder and lightning, and storms bring the extremes of summer and its changeability to mind; gusty, leaf-twirling winds make us think of crisp fall and the promise of cooler weather and happy times ahead.

Possible Cliches: characters who argue in high winds despite the danger, yelling to be heard; branches tearing off and crashing to the ground right where the character is standing (how often does this really happen??), something tearing loose (a leaf, a piece of paper) and blowing away to represent loss, the windmill as a symbol for adversaries

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:

Laura Pauling said...

That is the cutest picture! Personally, I love a warm windy day, especially right before a storm. You guys are amazing!

genelempp said...

This post is a light breeze on a hot day. Nicely donek, Becca!

Matthew MacNish said...

Hmm. A windmill as a symbol for an adversary? I've never heard of that cliche before, but I know you know what you're talking about, so now I'm gonna go read bout it.

Thanks, Becca!

Angie Cothran said...

Thanks for the caution. I hadn't thought of that before.

Angela Ackerman said...

Great picture Becca, and nicely done on this one. :) Definitely the falling tree limbs and whatnot cliche that are 'near misses'.

Ange

tracikenworth said...

I love how you stress not to use the weather entry as a "window into a character's soul." Weather has a place in fiction, yes, but you're right shouldn't be used as an extension.

Heather said...

I do love foreshadowing! Wind sounds like an excellent way to do it. I'm jotting down those cliques though so I stay away from them. Thanks for this!

Becca Puglisi said...

The windmill cliche was referring to the Don Quixote reference--tilting at windmills, and all that. I don't see it often, but that one reference really sticks out in my mind so I wanted to flag it. :)

Martha Ramirez said...

Interesting. Thank you!

storyqueen said...

Oh, thanks for this! I'm revising a scene where the MC's hair has whipped her face about four times! (Which is three too many.)

Thanks for opening my brain to the other options.

Shelley

Dawn Malone said...

My WIP is set mostly outside, so this will come in handy! Thanks much!

Cat said...

I absolutely love using weather for dramatic elements in my stories. I LOVED all your examples.

Carrie Butler said...

Great post! I loved your point about breezes giving seasonal clues. :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. I like the idea of using weather details, but seldom do so. Will bookmark this post.

Owllady said...

Reminds me of the time I heard the wind howling through the open metalwork of a huge broadcast tower. I was across a wide parking lot and across a street. Wind usually suggests "power" to me.

nutschell said...

i love these posts! and how apt as it is a bit windy in LA as of the moment.
nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Tracey said...

I'm one of those slack types who fills in setting later. I find the rest of the novel comes much easier. So, thanks for your posts, they give me the nudge in the ribs I need.

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