Weather Thesaurus Entry: Moonlight
Posted by Angela Ackerman
WEATHER & Earthly Phenomenon are important elements 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).
The sight of the moon changes depending on time and phase of the moon. If the sky is clear, among the starlight the moon may appear full (a ripe, pale disk), three quarters full, a half moon (a meringue cookie broken down the middle), or a crescent (waxing or waning, depending on the phase, like the end of a fingernail or a sickle shape). Cloud cover or fog can obscure the moon in a haze or make it appear to have a halo of light around it. Depending on the fullness of the moon, moonlight can cast definitive shadows and soft white light down on the landscape below, or little light at all. Occasionally the moon is visible during daylight hours and any moonlight is negated by sunlight.
Touch: Moonlight has no touch. Some liken it to 'cold' light, but technically this is because of the cool night air, not a quality of the moonlight itself.
Sound: N/A (A special note: wolves do not specifically howl at the moon. The roots of this belief come from Mythology and legend. However, wolves and other canines are nocturnal, so hearing yips and howls under moonlight is a common occurrence in the right geographical areas.)
Mood: Moonlight can offer the sense of danger in a scene for many reasons. First, most activity occurs during daylight, and the evening hours are when shadows form, predators come out to hunt, and those who do not wish to be seen can move about. Also there is an air of forbidden energy with moonlight, as normal human sleep cycles occur during this time, and so to be active in moonlight goes against the natural order we've predetermined as a society. This creates mystery and intrigue. If people aren't tucked safely into bed during night hours, what are they up doing...and why? Because of these nighttime notions, romantic liaisons can also be made more powerful with moonlight, but take care not to create a cliche.
Symbolism: Moonlight symbolizes a spectrum of different things. One of the strongest is Romance and Forbidden love. It also symbolizes individual freedom and purity, especially in the feminine sense, and figures into beliefs on fertility. Because the moon itself controls the Tides, moonlight is reflective and often linked to the flow and ebb of human emotion...making it a strong descriptive ally to enhance the emotional power of your scene!
Possible Cliches: Tying wolves or werewolves to the moon and moonlight; the undead & moonlit cemeteries; virgins being stolen away in the moonlight; lovers meeting in the moonlight
OTHER: As stated above, the strength of moonlight depends on cloud cover, season and phase. Moonlight appears stronger in winter because of the snow's ability to reflect. See the link above for more information.
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.