Weather Thesaurus Entry: Sunset
Posted by Angela Ackerman
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).
As the sun lowers beyond the horizon, the color spectrum of the sky changes to orange, pink and red hues. Clouds, dust or airborne particles appear back lit with vibrant colors, which casts the same color filter on anything reflective (water, shiny leaves, glass, etc). Shadows lengthen during sunset, increasing the contrast between the bright sunlight fading in the sky and non-reflective or absorbing surfaces (hills, mountains, trees, buildings, etc) creating a silhouette effect.
Smell: No smell is directly associated with sunset, however as the temperature cools, the lack of exposure to sunlight will 'dampen' the strength of certain smells (day-blooming flowers, pollution, garbage bins, soil, grass, etc). Night-blooming flowers, if present, will release their scent into the air.
Touch: The light from a sunset will warm the skin, but it is a fading warmth, creating an interesting opposition effect, as sunset by sight alone is often compared to fire.
Sound: As night approaches, bird activity lessens, and sounds from bees and insects becomes almost non-existent, creating a sound void.
Mood: Sunset is almost synonymous with endings in writing. Sunset is the waning of the day, and a time where characters slow their activity and reflect upon recent events. Using sunset in a setting can create a feeling of time running out, of actions nearing completion and signal the 'letting go' of emotions for the time being.
Symbolism: Growing older; transitions; death; impending doom; earth cycles; letting go; endings
Possible Cliches: Comparing sunset to fire or a burning sky; a reference term for late-in-life years; riding into the sunset; watching a sunset as a romantic catalyst
OTHER: Sunset times and length varies with season and location.
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.