I am intensely interested in the weather – where it comes from, who or what causes it, and how it plays out. So, it isn’t a big leap to figure out that I start chapter one in the Beyond mystery novel I am currently writing with the main character, Dana Bowman, dealing with weather. And that isn’t as simple as it sounds.
First, you need the weather appropriate to the time frame of your story. Although using a present-day setting, if the weather is severe and floods are a big part, you will probably be right on. However, it is always best to check with reliable weather sources online for weather on any day or in any time frame.
If you set your story anywhere in the past, you need to have the weather at least based on the weather situation then. Where you set your story will also factor in. For example, you probably wouldn’t have a tornado in California, but you might have very dry weather causing forest fires. On the flip side of the weather coin, you can use some weather conditions that occurred in the past as part of your story, part of the conflicts that occur in your plot. Think going out in a sailboat and getting caught in a storm. Of course, like all plots you have to build up the suspense and that includes impending storms. You need to connect the weather to your characters. Perhaps your main character is terrified of tornadoes or thunderstorms. Why? That would be part of your story and you can also blend that terror in with what the main character may have to do at the climax. Maybe your protagonist is in that sailboat with a friend who is actually the sailor. The protagonist may have to try to save the day if the sailor is injured, falls overboard, etc.
The weather can also play a creepy role in your novel – especially thrillers and horror. I am reminded of the 1960 movie Midnight Lace starring Doris Day (yes, I know, that dates me) where Rex Harrison as her husband appears to be stalking her as she walks through the London fog.
So sometimes the weather becomes like another character in your fiction. The weather possibilities are endless.
Even if you don’t have weather playing a major part, you don’t want your character going out in a snowstorm in shorts and a T-shirt. Or heading for the beach in a fur coat. Unless that is part of their eccentricity or they are on a modelling or music video assignment.
And don’t forget to give some reference to the weather in your story, but incorporate it into your story so it doesn’t read like an extended weather dissertation.
And what is my main character Dana Bowman facing weather-wise in the Beyond novel currently being written, which begins in late November 1999? She is walking in the rain.
But I have one extenuating circumstance here. My setting is a fictitious small city I call Thurston, Ontario. Thurston is located just north of Toronto where Aurora and Newmarket are. When I checked historical record data (three sources online), neither place had historical weather listings, so I went to the closest – Richmond Hill, Ontario and that’s what I’m using. With fictitious locations, you can be somewhat creative with the weather – within reason (see above about fur coats and shorts). Check out the real location in the general area of your made-up place and see what the weather is/was like there. Again, you don’t want snowstorms in California.
However, if you are writing fantasy or science fiction, the sky is the limit (pun intended).
Do you use weather as an important part of your fiction and how do you do so?
Sharon A. Crawford
Sharon A. Crawford is the author of the Beyond book series. More info at www.samcraw.com and www.bluedenimpress.com – my publisher – you can also purchase e-books – both Kindle and Kobo from Blue Denim Press. Click on the Beyond Blood Book cover at the top of this post.