Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Weather or Not? By Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Wells Coutu
Weather affects our mood, right? A cloudy or rainy day may make us feel lethargic or even depressed while seeing the sunshine can make us smile. In Minnesota, where I used to live, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can strike some people during the long, cold winters.

A heavy rain shower had me running from a store to my car one day, and I started thinking about how we incorporate the weather into our stories. If we’re not careful, it could be easy to write an entire book where every day is sunny and gorgeous—or where we don’t mention the weather at all.

In one of my historical (unpublished) novels, I started out with an unusually hot day in May. Most of the book takes place in the summer, and as I wrote, it began to feel like every day was extremely hot. Guess the heat wave that year set some records. Fortunately, I realized the need for variety and incorporated rain and storms into some of the scenes.

Very few of our fictional settings will have consistent weather throughout the timeline of the story—unless the setting is a tropical island. Even then, a hurricane or unexpected storm could occur. If we want our stories to be realistic and believable, we need to incorporate the weather patterns appropriate to the location and time of year.

But more than providing variety, the weather affects—and often reflects—the mood of our characters. The one thing I remember about Wuthering Heights is the mist and fog of the moors—appropriate for England and for the overall mood of the book, as well as the mood of several characters.

At other times, the weather can create a contrast to our character’s mood. My most recent release begins with a bright, sunny day, but the setting is a funeral for a baby. The contrast highlights the negative emotions of the heroine, who feels “the sun should not be shining.” Many readers will be able to relate to a time when the weather was the exact opposite of their mood.

Another important consideration is to know the actual weather for the area where your story is set. I once read a book set in my hometown where the characters dealt with a snowstorm that kept them inside for days. Now, this could happen in western Kentucky once in a decade or two, but this novel made it seem like an annual occurrence. Having experienced fewer storms of that magnitude in my childhood than I could count on one hand, the story lacked believability for me after that. Several resources exist for finding weather patterns for your story, including these:

You may even get ideas for stories from these sites when you explore record-setting events in certain areas. A Jack Reacher story, for instance, takes place in New York City during the record-setting heat wave in the 1970s that caused a blackout across the northeast.

In preparing to write a scene, do you consider the weather—hot or cold, rainy or sunny or snowy, windy or still? What mood do you want to create for the scene, and will the weather enhance or contrast that mood? Is there a historic weather event that can provide the backdrop for a story you want to write?

Share examples in the comments of how you’ve used weather to enhance the mood or realism of your scenes, or tell us about great examples from books you’ve read.

About the Author
The Secret Heart by Marie Wells Coutu
Marie Wells Coutu’s newest novel, The Secret Heart, from Write Integrity Press, was named a finalist in both the 2018 National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Awards and the 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards sponsored by Florida Writers Association. Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. Thirsting for More, the second book in the series was a finalist in the Selah Awards Contest and a semi-finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards. An unpublished historical novel set near Golden Pond has been a finalist in five contests.

You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook page (Author Marie Wells Coutu), at her website (MarieWellsCoutu.com), or follow her on Twitter (@mwcoutu) or on Amazon.com.

Marie is a regular contributor to Seriously WriteFor more posts by Marie, click here.