1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's raining, so what?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, Aug 5, 2016.

    I'd like to gather opinion on including the weather, be that in the narrative or mentioned by a character.

    I can imagine many writing tutors would say leave it out unless it impacts on the plot in some way. But I don't agree. In fact I think that's stupid advice.

    I'm not talking about the characters having a two-page dialogue about the weather, or using purple prose to describe it at length in the narrative, but aren't we as writers supposed to be painting a picture? Creating atmosphere?

    From a reader's perspective, are you blind to mentions of weather, or do you feel it adds to the immersion of the story?
     
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  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Paint the picture. Create the atmosphere. Check out the concept of pathetic fallacy. Weather can be powerfully symbolic, and there's no reason not to use it to whatever effect you can.
     
  3. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I enjoy being immersed in a scene. I think when it becomes a problem is, as you mentioned when a writer goes into a ridiculous amount of description about it. Or starting every scene with a description of the weather.

    It adds to the relatability of the scene. When a writer includes something that I can easily picture/have experienced, it furthers the immersion into the scene.
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    From a reader's perspective, it depends on prior history with the writer within the given story. China Miéville uses quite a bit of backdrop description in his Bas Lag novels and in other, seperate works. In the case of the Bas Lag novels, the city of New Crobuzon, which is described in exhaustive detail, is, I think, a necessary part of the story. The city is itself a character in the story. It's not just a place; it's a presence. He feeds you this constant impression of the bizarre location because its bizarrity (not a word) is indispensable. The weather, often oppressive, is described with regularity in context to the aforementioned. If there were no meaning to it, no purpose of any kind, I would feel differently. When I don't feel that link to purpose, my eyes glaze over until something a little more germane comes along. *shrug* This is just me. I cannot speak for anyone else, nor do I pretend to. If it happens too much, the likelihood that the given book doesn't get finished starts to go up.
     
  5. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    The weather is ever changing and it is one of the few monsters that we can torment but not control.

    It is one of the best ways to immediately describe the state of the world. A hot, roasting sun in Sahara may be a matter of course, but a heat wave on Antarctica tells me a lot in just a few words.
     
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  6. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hope you included it in one of your works, nice writing.
     
  7. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Example time. I opened one of my chapters with my two main leads having spent the night in the car. They wake the next morning covered in sweat because of the sun beating down on the car. It's a scene I describe as them being 'sautéed in their own juice'.

    Forget my choice of words, though, my point is the hot weather has got absolutely nothing to do with anything, so what purpose does it serve? Would this be considered scene setting?
     
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  8. CrusherBrooks
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    CrusherBrooks Member Supporter

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    The weather can easily be a contributing factor in many stories... Either directly by means of a flood, famine because of bad harvests or something like that, or indirectly by putting a character in a specific mood... And you can use it to slightly alter events, for example if you want a busy street to be fit for a chase on foot have it rain! Less people will be outside. This of course outside of the symbolic and stage setting options.
    If you do decide to include weather in a scene, do it early. In our daily lives the weather is something we see immediately when we wake up and look outside the window... As a result, I find it very disrupting if halfway through the scene the weather suddenly turns out to be completely different from what I expected. Same goes for day/night, at least for me.
     
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  9. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't.
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's like everything else, really - if there's a reason to include it (sets scene, affects plot or characterization or mood, etc.) then it makes sense to include it. If there's no reason to include it? Then there's no reason to include it!
     
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  11. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I don't know why, but almost every time I feel stuck in a story I make it rain. And if this is something I do, other writers probably do that too. And then we have all these storms... and there might be a problem with that. I hardly ever notice weather coming into play in what I read. And I kind of agree with your fictitious writing instructor, if it's not part of the story, why is it there?
     
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  12. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I was just looking over what I wrote earlier today. Somehow I managed to forget that I made it rain in my story. And somehow I managed to for get this is something I do far too often. I waste far too much time in the fiction rain.
     
  13. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    As I said, scene setting, atmosphere.

    I know this is only a throwaway line and also accept HST is no kind of authority, but this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. It's taken from a couple of paragraphs into the start of The Rum Diary:

    It was a rotten night in the middle of January, but I wore a light cord coat. Everyone else had on heavy jackets and flannel suits. The last thing I remember is standing on the dirty bricks of Hundson Street, shaking hands with Rollins and cursing the freezing wind that blew in off the river.

    None of those weather details matter in terms of plot, but they set the scene and I don't see what's wrong with that.
     
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  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    An action related to weather - ducking into a doorway during a sudden cloudburst, for example - can also be a handy tool for pacing your scene.
     
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  15. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    A thunderstorm where the lights go out leads to a watershed moment in my book, so in that case the weather was pretty important.
     
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  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thunderstorm. Watershed. I see what you did there! :p
     
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  17. Anna100
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    Anna100 Member

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    I always include the weather in my writings, but I've never thought about whether it should be there or not. Hmm. I just like weather in general and I think it's very good at creating a certain atmosphere. It also affects our mood and in return the mood of the character, if that makes sense. Don't know how it would be to write a story with no description of weather. there's probably many of them? depends where the setting is, I guess.
     
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  18. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    Weather can reflect, or create, a state of mind in the protagonist. A woman looking out the window at a steady drizzle might not have the same frame of mine that she would if she were contemplating a sunny landscape.

    There's a story that H. Allen Smith told about a contest that was held at the newspaper he was working at. A bonus would be handed out to the writer of what one editor regarded as the best story of the week. One writer studied the winning entries and noticed that they had one thing in common: they always made a reference either to the Deity or to the weather. So he started the next story he submitted, about a suicide, with "Oh, God! I hope it stops raining!"

    He won the bonus.
     
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  19. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I was writing screenplays, it was frowned upon to mention weather even if it actually impacted the story. There were several reasons for this at the time:
    • SFX weather added expense,
    • you can't control weather when on location, and
    • the director and lighting director are gonna veto anything the writer says anyway if they disagree with the mood you're setting with specific weather. (and in the third act, they'll want it to rain anyway just to add drama)
    As for novels, in Whiteout by Ken Follett, the snowstorms gave the story atmosphere as did the tropical humidity and constant threat of rain in Jurassic Park. I'm sure I could come up with other examples given time.

    But perhaps because of Hollywood's influence, I tend to imagine the weather as being bright and sunny, a nice summer day, unless the author says otherwise. And some stories do a better job of helping me remember what the weather's doing (after an initial declaration of what it is) while others—when it comes up again—catch me off guard and I have to reorient myself to the story.
     
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  20. Freethesea
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    Freethesea Member

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    Does anyone talk about the weather when it has nothing to do with the scene? I mean, when the author says its, sunny, raining, windy, gloomy, bright, cloudy, hot, cold...Doesn't it reflexively produce a mood of some kind so the reader has a little red alert knob go off in his/her head? Bright-good, gloomy-watch out, rainy-anything goes so keep alert, gloomy-we have a problem (these are my personal red knobs by the way, not everyone's).

    So, instead of getting rid of the weather (if it's not handled correctly as BayView and Sac-a-Doo suggest) dump the entire scene if it doesn't help to push the story.

    In short, my vote as a reader: power fist in the air for weather scenes! Let it rain! Let water burst from the sky in buckets! Torrential downpours, gushing deluge, floods that swallow characters like water sharks...Welcome!

    !
     
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  21. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a great point and worth noting. If a 5,000 word chapter covering the course of one day begins, The following morning Tom woke to the sound of torrential rain hammering the sill of his bedroom window... and then the weather is never mentioned again until the last line reading, He closed the door and was glad to be out of the downpour. I can well imagine this taking you by surprise. It's an extreme example and I can't imagine any writer would do this, but like I say, worth noting.
     
  22. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I can't remember specific instances, but I have a naggy little voice in my head saying it's happened. It's the same voice that tells me not to step off the curb and when I listen to it, find I've narrowly missed being hit by a bus. So I tend to take it seriously. :)
     
  23. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah... beg pardon? Is that agreement? Or something else.
     
  24. Freethesea
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    Sack-a-Doo...See what happens when I don't go back for a rewrite? This is one of many errors I will make on this site, even with the best edit cap I own in place. Now- I could lie and say it was an 'agreement' but I would just be had later.
     
  25. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, since you didn't go into detail, shall we agree to disagree? :)
     

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