Weather Thesaurus Entry: Summer

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: kids playing outside, sprinklers on, people wearing tank tops/shorts/flip-flops, crowded pools and beaches, people fanning themselves, panting dogs, heat waves rising off the concrete, sunny days with intermittent showers and thunderstorms, lush green plants, fireflies blinking, bats dipping and flitting at dusk, tall grass, lawns being cut, fire hydrants gushing, bonfires and sleep-away camp

Smell: meat grilling on the bbq, sunscreen, bug spray, sweat, chlorine, rain, fresh-cut grass

Taste: sweat, sunscreen, salt water, ice cream, watermelon, popsicles, beer and soda, lemonade

Touch: sting of mosquitoes, sweat trickling down your face, clothes that stick to you, sunburn, too-hot asphalt, breezes that are warm and cloying, the shock of cold as you jump into a pool, the heat of the sun beating down on you, hot air rushing in as you open the door

Sound: the whir of oscillating and overhead fans, a/c humming, children laughing/running/squealing, thunder, falling rain, water splashing at the pool, fireworks booming, mosquitoes buzzing, lawnmower noise

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: Many peoples' memories of summer revolve around summer vacation, picnics, barbecues, and staying up late. Summer evokes happiness and nostalgia and memories of carefree childhood.

Symbolism: childhood, innocence, freedom. If using the seasons to represent the stages of life, summer can also symbolize maturity and adulthood.

Possible Cliches: ?

OTHER: As always when discussing the weather, the length and severity of summer vary by region. Also keep in mind that the cues from your childhood may no longer be common today, or may be confined to smaller, specific areas. Squeaking screen doors and open windows were summer fixtures from my past. But with changing times, more people have a/c, so unless your character lives in a less temperate region, these cues are now the exception rather than the norm.

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. 

13 comments:

Mark said...

Aloha,

I didn't know *weather* or not I should leave a comment, but after wandering your site, I'm like wow!

Mahalo for all that you do to help the thousands of writers you'll never meet.

Regards, and aloha!

Traci Kenworth said...

I can almost feel those steaming
sidewalks, smell chicken barbecuing
on the grill, and children laughing as they run through sprinklers. Ah,
such a good time compared to the 2-5
inches of the "other" season headed
our way today.

Kristen said...

I gotta figure out how to favorite this--my ms takes place in summer and I can always use help in the sensory stuff. Love the grilling, too! Forgot about that.

Marcia said...

So true that these seasonal and weather cues vary by region and era! Thanks for what you do.

Stacy Green said...

This is a great reminder, especially with the cold weather set it. Both my books are set in the summer, so this couldn't have come at a better time.

Thanks:)

Janet, said...

makes me yearn for summer again. You could also add to smell the scent of flowers. In my MG manuscript the smell of honeysuckle plays a large part in my story.

Angela Ackerman said...

Great post, Becca. And if anyone knows summer, it's you living down in Florida! :)

Angela

Becca Puglisi said...

Ah, yes. The flowers. Thanks, Janet!

Kelly Hashway said...

My favorite parts of your posts are always the contrasts at the end. I guess I really like contrast in my stories. :) As always, great post.

Gail Shepherd said...

And *my* favorite part of your posts is the warning about cliches. I usually spot at least one cliche hole I've fallen into. It's like you've thrown me a rope to pull myself out!

Mirka Breen said...

Nice! You made my least favorite season come alive, and I almost like it.
I’m reminded of the late Sid Fleischman’s suggestion to ‘give a weather report.’

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Groan. It's definitely the furthest thing from summer here. :(

Medeia Sharif said...

Very evocative. So many sights, sounds, and other sensations came to mind as I read this.

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