World Building – Weather

There’s a hurricane heading for us. As we fill bathtubs and pack our emergency supplies and test-run the generator, it made me wonder if I use weather enough in my stories. I mean, these events have real consequences in real lives. Why wouldn’t that be true in fiction as well?

How I Use Weather Now

The most I do is make sure that I keep the seasons consistent and consider the curvature of my pretend planet to make it as close to earth as possible so I don’t have to make that stuff up too. This is often tough enough for me when my characters routinely travel for weeks at a time before hitting the next section of the story. Sometimes, a change in the weather is the only indication I can use to show the passage of time.

But surely there are so many other ways that I can utilize weather, right?

Possible Uses for Weather

  • Passage of Time
    • I’ve already talked a bit about this one. It’s an easy way to show the passage of time, but that’s also assuming your readers are experienced with the same sort of weather pattern you choose. As a new writer with just one series in production, I stuck with what I knew: North American weather patterns of four seasons. If I wanted to do a wet/dry season, I’d have to do more research and consider if that would work at all for my standard readers.
    • I’ve seen this technique work well in Harry Potter where the seasons show how far we’ve come in the school year as well as where we are in the story arc for each novel.
  • Antagonist
    • All of my antagonists so far have been people. Yet, I can see something like a tornado or tsunami testing a protagonist the way a human antagonist would. How fun would that be? I have a few short stories I need to write in the next couple months. I know at least one of the callouts will work with weather as the bad guy. I’m going to give it a shot.
    • The Martian does this really well, as a storm is the inciting incident and the protagonist has to fight the elements and the unfriendly-to-humans conditions or he dies.
  • Power Source
    • Magic systems are always challenging to build and make unique. What if the magic users in a world used the weather to charge their power? There could be a different kind of magic per event, like thunderstorms power lightning magics while flooding powers water magics. The more I write about this, the more intriguing it sounds. I seriously need to explore this more.
    • The only power source usage I can think of is Back to the Future where they had to use the lightning strike to power the flux capacitor. I’m sure there are many more, I’m just not aware of them.
  • Excuse to Force a Conversation
    • A storm knocks out the power and now the two characters who’d rather kill each other have to work together to free themselves from a stalled elevator. For an enemies to lovers romance, the two protagonists could get stuck in a parking garage while a flash flood prevents them from leaving. There are so many powerful moments were weather can contain whoever you need to contain in order to see who they really are.
    • I think of The Mist with this one. Even though Stephen King has monsters in the mist, it is the storm that traps them in the supermarket to begin with.
  • Set the Mood
    • How many horror stories take place in sunny beach resorts? How many romances take place on a stormy sea? Weather definitely sets the mood for a story. I should play with this much more as well. I think “It was a dark and stormy night” has received so much criticism, that some of us newer writers have forgotten how powerful weather can be when crafting the feel of our story. It’s time to reevaluate.
    • Can you imagine Supernatural filmed anywhere that was sunny and cheerful? The rainy, chilly Vancouver weather sets the creepy feeling of the show with perfection.

What did I miss?

I can’t think of anything else, but I am sure there are a ton of ways to use weather in our stories. Comment with suggestions on how I can better utilize weather in my stories. How have you used it effectively?

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