Weather Thesaurus Entry: Mirage

WEATHER and 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).

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight:  

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 

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: 

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.

Symbolism:

Magic, desire, temptation, the unattainable, phantoms, strange visions, disorientation

Possible Cliches:

Seeing the mirage of a desert oasis as one is weakened by the elements

OTHER:

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.

18 comments:

Bish Denham said...

Good one. Thinking something is there that isn't...an excellent plot manipulation.

Angela Ackerman said...

Apologies if the fonts of pieces of this look different...on my screen, it looks fine until I go to the blogger edit window, and then it appears all screwed up. So, hopefully what you see is what I see, and it appears more or less uniform, and not a mess of font and size. If not, again, sorry about that! :( #stupidfonts

E.J. Wesley said...

Love these posts, and love the point about using weather to draw contrasts and/or parallels to the character's emotions.

I've been having similar issues with font/picture screwyness in Blogger as well. I've had to schedule a few posts from the road of late and didn't realize things were messed up until some lovely followers pointed it out in the comments.

KarenG said...

I'm always interested in the weather when I read, and also what the characters are eating, drinking, and the clothes they were. It's those ordinary little details that seem to make it real to me.

Shilpa said...

Another of those posts that I file away as v.important! Thanks!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Wouldn't have thought of using a mirage in a setting. What an interesting idea. Thanks.

Matthew MacNish said...

Fonts and text look fine to me.

Becca Puglisi said...

Another great entry, Ange. Nice job!

Michael Offutt said...

I've seen a few mirages in my life.

The Golden Eagle said...

Mirages are fascinating, but I've never really thought of using them in my writing.

Great post!

Theresa Milstein said...

I've never thought of using mirages in my writing either. I'm going to think about this one.

erica and christy said...

This is a great idea. I love using weather that is contrasting to my character's emotion, especially for foreshadowing. I never thought about using mirages, either. Thanks! Christy

Traci Kenworth said...

One of my favorite images/ideas
about the desert. Thanks!!

Patti said...

I use weather a lot in my first book.

Heather said...

You know, I never thought of using a mirage. Thank you so much for the idea!

Martha Ramirez said...

This was a VERY interesting post. Thank you!

Carrie Butler said...

A mirage! What a great idea. I always learn so much here. Great post! :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Brilliant and fascinating. Weather can be such an important element to a story, but when over-done or not handled well, can ruin the writing.

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