Moody Weather

There is just something about the weather in fiction.

It sets the mood for the readers, it alters the mood of characters or sometimes it changes according to the character’s mood.

Strange thing the weather in books. It never fails to rain when character is sad, or the moon is just right when she is in love. The sun shines bright when she is happy, and it snows profusely when one of her love ones dies.

Of course, he could dance in the rain, feel lonely in a sunny afternoon and dive into a snowbank to make snow angels. Sometimes the weather fits her mood and sometime he says to hell with it and ignores it completely.

This is no accident. While we can not control real weather, we do react to it. So when a writer wants to clue their reader about the current mood of a given scene, playing up the weather is a an easy choice. There different ways a writer can do this:

  1. Thunder God: The environment is always in sync with the characters weather.ย  Light or shade, rain or shine, it reflects how he feels at any given moment. Common in romances. Of course the character could very well control the weather in some way, which means that this is supernatural in some way. But most of the time it simply serves to dramatize the character’s current mood.
  2. The weather, the weather never changes: The environment is preset on whatever setting the story requires, throughout. It is always night, or raining or snowing. Common in film noir, comic books, science fiction and disaster movies. At some level these stories pit the characters against the environment, whether is the corruption sweeping the dank city streets or the oppressive desert sun in midday.
  3. Seasonal depression: The seasons change, and so does the character’s mood. Happens to a lot of people in real life, especially around the winter holidays.
  4. God has a funny sense of humor: The weather serves as a plot device, either in comedic sense, causing the character all kinds of grief or like in #2, it serves as a challenge for the character to overcome. In comedies, the character accepts that he can not change the weather, in survival stories the characters endure in spite of it.
  5. It got nothing to do with it: The weather is portrayed independently from the character’s mood an actions.ย  Sometime it affects her emotional reaction, but most of the time it simply marks the passage of time or serves as footnote to the scene’s events.

Most stories have a mixture of one or more of these.

So when was the last time you used weather to set the mood?

10 comments on “Moody Weather

  1. I like to use winter, heavy snow, etc in my dark ages action tales to set a cold abnd bleak mood that fits the tale. I think you have to be careful though subtle is the watch word when it comes to weather in fiction.

    On a side note, my favourite use of weather in fiction is one of Douglas Adams’ superb little throw away asides. There’s a lorry driver who is depressed because no matter what part of the country he drives to it is always raining. What the lorry driver doesn’t realise is that he is a Rain God and the rain clouds follow him everywhere because they love him.


    • Well, they wouldn’t be the dark ages if they were not cold and bleak. But yes, subtlety is the best policy.

      And it was Adams that gave me the idea for the thunder god entry.


  2. Originally, Portraits of the Living: A Ghost Story was going to take place in the (dreary) winter. But then I decided to contrast the darkness of the story by having it take place in the summer. Of course, there are a lot of thunderstorms…


    • Moody weather indeed. I did have a scene with an angry character inside a church while a thunderstorm lashed the town outside, but being England in the Fall, rain is to be expected.

      I’m not saying “don’t use it” more like “use it lightly”. ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. I read something interesting on a blog that I think is true: Weather is not a mirror. I definitely think weather can contribute to a mood or atmostphere the writer is trying to create through contrast or comparison, but care needs to be taken. Think for example, how easily things can slip into melodrama if every epic sword battle was swaddled in a crackling thunderstorm, if every broken heart was seen through a veil of rain.

    Weather can absolutely help as long as we don’t get carried away with it. ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Interesting post, Ralph.

    I try pretty hard to avoid using weather as a mood ring for my characters, but I will admit to using it as a metaphor at the end of one of my books. ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. I once started an essay about a disastrous camping trip with the sun shining brightly as it rose, making everything sparkle with promise. The juxtaposition gave the humor a nice boost.


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