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).
A mirage is a refraction phenomena where a distant object appears displaced from its true position. Hot and cold air have different densities, causing light to pass through each differently. When masses of hot on cold air are layered, light bends, creating a 'rippling air' effect (think about heat waves that lift off a truck hood as the engine cools, for example). This layered air is what displaces or distorts the appearance of an object. A common example of a mirage is the illusion of water pooling in a dip in highway on a hot day. Another is when the sun appears perfectly balanced on the horizon. Hills or vegetation in the distance can seem near, yet as one travels they grow no closer, or worse, seem to get farther away. A body of water can appear in a dry desert and the distortion of light can make it seem as if people, trees or buildings wait in the distance. (If you click on the picture, it will take you to the source where there is an excellent, in-depth article on Mirages!)
Smell: N/A *
Taste: N/A *
Touch: N/A *
Sound: N/A *
* If the body is stressed via heatstroke, exhaustion or extreme thirst, the mind may implant the belief that smells, tastes or sounds associated with a mirage of 'safety' are real. One might convince oneself that they smell the salty sea brine of the ocean if that is what they seek, or hallucinate the sound of cars, the sight of building and people, smell of car exhaust of food cooking, etc
Mirages can add an element of something otherworldly to a scene, or a feeling that not all is as it appears. It works well as a foreshadowing tool to alert the reader that something else is going on besides the obvious. Using the symbolism of temptation and desire can be especially powerful. Take care in using this phenomenon in writing as the unusual nature of a mirage is odd enough to create a 'ripple' in the reader's awareness. If you want to make them think twice about what is happening (suggesting something unusual is afoot) a mirage is perfect. But, if you are simply looking for a weather element to enrich the scene, a mirage may not be the way to go because it holds such strong symbolism.
Magic, desire, temptation, the unattainable, phantoms, strange visions, disorientation
Seeing the mirage of a desert oasis as one is weakened by the elements
Mirages most commonly occur in hot, dry locations but can happen anywhere shifting masses of hot and cool air are present. Mirages have been seen both on land and at sea.
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.