The Power of Weather in Your Story



Photo by Moyan Brenn

Symbolism--one of the words we heard a lot in high school English class.  We were supposed to decipher the complicated messages of the authors through the symbolism they used in their stories.  Now some of it was a bit of a stretch--the hole in his shoe is supposed to represent the moral failings of the larger society and the emptiness of his soul blah blah blah.  Honestly, a lot of it was lost on me back then (and *cough* now), but some of the more straightforward symbolism devices you can use are seasons and weather.


A lot of times, we can get caught in a rut and just choose the weather and season randomly.  If left to my own devices, when I start writing a WIP it's natural for me to defer to the current season I'm in.  It's hot outside, so my mind doesn't think winter.  And then within the story (because writing setting descriptions is one of  my least favorite), they end up all being clear days because that is the assumed state.

This is a lost opportunity.  Weather and season are great ways to add another layer to your scene.  For instance, this weekend, I added a scene to my current WIP where the couple gets caught in the rain.  This scene is at a climactic moment in the story and is a turning point where each have to let go of past things in  order to move forward.  So, in this case, the drenching rain of the thunderstorm plays off both their anger at what's happened and the need for a deep, cleansing before a fresh start.

Mine was pretty straightforward, but you don't always have to go for the obvious choice.  Yes, a dark and stormy night might be a goto for the scary point of your story, but sometimes the unexpected can be more powerful.  How scary is it if the evil can touch you even under the bright sunshine?

So here are some of the general things you can use with weather and season in your setting.


  • Spring: new start, beginnings, renewal, growth after being stuck, birth, hope
  • Summer: happiness, relaxation after stressful time, height of life, strength, abundance
  • Fall: waning life, transition from one state to another (like the leaves), preparing for something difficult
  • Winter: sadness, being stuck/frozen, lacking comfort, death, hiding, or on the flipside because of Christmas--reconnecting with family/past
  • Rain: cleansing, renewal, mixed emotions, depression
  • Thunderstorm: anger, danger, strong emotion
  • Blue Skies/Sunshine: hope, happiness, absence of trouble, purity
  • No Wind  or humid: stagnant, unable to  move forward, smothering
  • Windy: change, things moving too quickly to grab onto
  • Snow: inner coldness, sadness, cleansing, covering the bad, a quiet calm, purity
  • Blizzard: overwhelmed, trapped, helpless
  • Fog: unknown, fear, confusion, foreboding danger
  • Distant Storm/Heat Lightning/Clouds Rolling In: danger on the horizon
  • Overcast: change coming, sadness, something is preventing reaching happiness
  • Sun breaking through clouds/rainbow: hope, change, victory

These are just some I could think of.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on some other meanings for these.  Also, do you consider the weather/season when writing?  Which have you used in your stories?  Can you think of a scene in a book or movie where weather made the scene shine?



**Today's Theme Song**
"Only Happy When It Rains" - Garbage
(player in sidebar, take a listen)