Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Weather in Fiction: Effective or Tedious?

Weather starts out as a huge part of my Wanted and Wired series…and just gets more important. In the very first scene of the very first book, a sniper lines up her target while rain beats down on a grim, gray future urbanscape. Later, we find out that storms — hurricanes in particular, and climate change more broadly — have shaped this fictional world and raised stakes that, in a climate-neutral alternative reality, might not have been such a big deal. Weather events are intentional, important to both character and plot.

So, yeah, I use weather and climate to propel a story. I think it can be an effective tool in your storyteller’s belt.

Just be careful not to overdo it. For instance, I love Dean Koontz (shameless fangirl here). Those early books of his were important to my teen brain development. So when someone recommended a Koontz book — the Jane Hawke series — a few years ago, I devoured it and all its sequels, and then eagerly recommended the whole thing to my critique partner. Well, she read the first one, and when I asked what she thought, she gave me a look and said, “He does love his long weather descriptions, doesn’t he?” 

Honestly, I hadn’t even noticed on first read, but when I looked back, holy crud, almost every chapter begins with some gloomy mood-music description of the weather. I guess it sets the tone or something, but it almost never has anything to do with the story itself. I can see how she thought it overwhelmed the story instead of deepening it.

And that, perhaps, is when weather becomes tedious: yes, use it to layer in plot or character points; no, don’t overdo it when it is just a ruffle tacked on to the story.

p.s. — I would still rec the Jane Hawke books. They’re super fun. Just skim the weather bits if they bug you.

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