Last night, lightning boomed across the sky in a summer storm. It made me start thinking about the use of weather in writing. One of the unofficial rules of “good” writing is to talk about the weather sparingly, and never start a story with a statement about it. But why? These are the best reasons I could come up with:
- It’s cliché – there is a reason that we cringe when we hear a story start with, “it was a dark and stormy night.”
- There are much more interesting ways to draw a reader into the story than telling them about the weather.
- Like any other element, if it doesn’t affect the story or the characters personally then it shouldn’t be there anyway.
- If weather does have a place in the story, consider weaving into other actions. He shuddered as another boom of thunder shook the ground, the storm was coming closer.
- Unless your work lends itself to long poetic passages of description (mine doesn’t), it’s best to avoid full paragraphs of nothing but describing the weather. If not done well it risks sounding like a meteorological report.
There are a number of famous books that break the rule, my favorite example is Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time – it actually starts with the phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
I’m not saying that weather should not be used, I AM saying that it needs to be significant and relevant to the story. Some choose weather as a symbolic device to represent the inner-most emotions of their lead character. If they are sad the weather is rainy, cold, and dark. If they are happy the skies are clear and sunny – you get the point.
Anyone actively using weather in their stories? I would love to hear how!