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Atmospheric Atmosphere

January 9, 2012


Today I’d like to discuss how I use atmospheric events in my storytelling. By atmospheric events, I mean of course: The Weather. The environment in which characters move and act/react to tell the story is just as big a player in the overall story as the protagonist, the plot and any proscribed meaning the story could deliver. I find that the weather can easily set the tone for a scene or entire story. Below I discuss a couple of my favorite weather patterns, and how I use them.

Sunny: Generally speaking I use sunny weather to imply general happiness. Usually at the end of a weather change. The sun emerging from the clouds, rays of light beaming down on the hero etc.. I mean most people can relate warm happy feelings to a sunny day. Just think of your favorite spring or summer memories. In this short story the is rising over the city and a man who has just extracted either revenge or justice depending on your point of view. To him a matter of significance was settled in his favor.

Rain: I’ve spent a lot of time in cities that have more than their fair share of rainfall. I love how when conditions are right a light fog descends and the sound of water running through pipes and hissing on the streets give a noir feel to any location. I tend to use gloomy rain as an indicator of oppressive conditions or a general sadness about a location. For me personally, I enjoy rain a great deal. As long as it is behaving itself. Flooding is not good. Too much of a good thing and all that. For my characters it brings misery, wet clothes, maybe even a dictator or vile magician. It gives them a physical reminder that all is not well and there are issues to solve.

Moody rainfall is found in a lot of work. Take Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep for instance. This novel is the basis for BladeRunner, in which rain is an indelible theme.

Snow: I just used snow in The Fall of Akui, really for the first time. I used it to set the scene of bleak, cold, ponderous things happening. Clinging snow gives weight to tree branches and the physical trials the characters face. It obscures the path or what the forest may hold. With the touch of gray clouds and wet sticky, clinging snow the mood can be lowered faster than the thermometer. In essence I used the snow in the same way I might have used rain. In this case however I chose to make it multi-task, obstacle and mood setting.

A light fluffy snow could be several things. A precursor to a winter squall or a peaceful moment in the story as the snow gently falls. It can be clean and fresh (newness and renewal) or dirty and stained. I feel that cold and/or winter delivers a sense impending conflict and struggle. Alluding to something unseen and chilling approaching. George RR Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire dwells on this notion.

Summary: So what is it about the weather that makes me as a writer want to include it so prominently? It is a wonderful tool to show mood. How many noir novels include fog enshrouded streets? Or broken hearts start with a rainfall? Weather is immediate. It can be used easily and I would suggest that it probably has a universal understanding. It will convey an emotion well.

It should not be used exclusively. No, that would be too easy. And I think that easy is not necessarily the way one should travel when writing. It should be supporting other elements of the work to move the story forward.

The next time you are caught in the rain or snow or fog, take a moment (safely of course…) to observe it. Note the sounds you can hear, the smells and the sights that are visible. Revel in the change of weather and embrace it.

Also, this was just posted over at David Gaughran’s Blog. It discusses Wattpad, a site that offers a ton of free material to read. David shares some interesting stats on the consumption at Wattpad. Good stuff there!

Thanks for taking the time to read!



From → Writing

  1. wow loved it as usual all your posts are very unique and very inspiring so agree with you mostly when a movie or a story starts with someone looking out of window staring at rain they have invariable gone through tough times…and then the sunny side up .beautifully done Steven:-)

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