Weather/Earthly Phenomena Thesaurus Entry: Sky

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: 
Sunrise and Sunset: When the sun rises, the horizon gets brighter, gradually turning pinkish, red, or orange until the sun is fully up and the sky's color becomes more uniform. The opposite is true of a sunset; the sky gradually dims from bright to dark with the horizon turning red and orange as the sun sets. 

Daytime: The sky can be cloudless, looking uniform from every direction as far as can be seen. It is generally a pale blue, though it also can appear gray due to heavy cloud cover, or even white when the sun is at its hottest. Clouds may occupy the sky in many forms: wispy layers, poofy formations, in feathery strokes that look painted on. Clouds themselves are usually white; storm clouds are gray. If clouds are in the sky, the sun's position illuminates them accordingly, shining through one side while the other is in shadow. Rays may also shine through rifts and holes in clouds. Things seen in the daytime sky: planes and helicopters, hot-air balloons, flying birds, lines of jet exhaust, skywriting


The Stormy Sky: Storm clouds can pile up slowly throughout the day or in a very short period of time. They may seemingly appear all at once or move toward you in a visible line, with clouds piled up behind. Storm clouds are generally gray, though they vary in shade depending on the severity of the storm. Serious storm clouds, such as those that produce tornadoes and hail, may appear green- or purple-tinged. The sky can be generally overcast, with the clouds forming a kind of ceiling, or the clouds can bunch up into thunderheads that loom above. It's also possible to experience a light rain shower where the sky above is dark and overcast while the sun shines in the distance, behind the storm front. If the storm produces lightning, it will shoot out quickly, white hot and blindingly bright, dispersing shadows for the split second it lasts.


Evening: At night, the sky is black, pinpricked with white stars and the moon in its various stages. If there is cloud cover, depending on its thickness, the stars and moon may be partially or completely blotted out. Other things that can be seen in the night sky are the blinking lights of low-flying planes as they pass overhead and falling stars.

Smell, Taste, Touch, Sound: n/a

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: Because the sky is always above us wherever we are, it has a strong impact on our mood. An overcast sky can bring on gloominess or a feeling of oppression. A sunny sky might make a person more light-hearted. A clear sky after a rain lifts the spirits, encouraging optimism and hopefulness. Approaching storm clouds can bring on foreboding, anxiety, or even fear.

Symbolism: A stormy sky often symbolizes approaching doom or danger. A clear, starry sky is often used to represent the universe and the endless potential it holds. The dismal, overcast sky can symbolize oppression or depression. Sunrises work well as new beginnings and sunsets represent relief or rest from the day's labors.

Possible Cliches: red-sky-in-morning-sailor-take-warning-etc., the sky's the limit, pie in the sky, Chicken Little references, the sky as a dome over the Earth

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:

Rachel said...

WOW, this post is incredible!
Thank you; I'm off to retweet!

Kelly Polark said...

I agree that the sky has an impact on one's mood. When gray days pile up, it's harder for some to smile! I know I seem happier and maybe even more productive on sunny days!
Plus people certainly appreciate a beautiful sunset/sunrise or a rainbow! Or love to watch a spectacular lightning display!

Matthew MacNish said...

The sky as a dome is a cliche? Oh crap ...

Christina Lee said...

This is excellent, esp. the symbolism part (heh heh, Matt)!

Bish Denham said...

A wonderful post Becca. In winter in the Caribbean the day-time sky can be an intense beautiful deep clear blue.

Loree Huebner said...

I'm a sky watcher by nature...great post.

Angela Brown said...

You mention quite a few weather cliches that I've seen used repeatedly but hadn't thought about. Thanks, because this post is really helpful.

SHANNON O'DONNELL said...

As always, wonderful and insightful post! I especially love the weather as a factor on mood--SO true! :-)

Southpaw said...

Very nice. I was just reading about interesting lighting that happens during the twilight hours.

Karen Lange said...

I like the idea of using weather to add contrast. Mentally working on a scene in the WIP and this could add something. Thanks a bunch!

Carrie Butler said...

The sky is so versatile. Great post, as always! :)

The Golden Eagle said...

It's interesting to consider the ways the sky might influence a character's decisions, by affecting their mood.

Great post!

tracikenworth said...

Interesting. Love to see all the elements that come together to make or break our day.

tracikenworth said...

Interesting. Love to see all the elements that come together to make or break our day.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

ROFL at Matt's comment.

I'm excited to get to use the weather thesaurus again, soon. :D

Leslie Rose said...

I grew up by the beach so the sky over the ocean has always fascinated me with its fickleness. Super post.

Magdalena Ball said...

Brilliant post - really inspiring. I'm going to write a poem about the weather right now. Thank you!

Marcie Colleen said...

Thank you for this post. The weather is such a unifying experience. Its definitely a tool that writers should tap into.

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