The recent storms, Malik and Corrie, got me thinking about the role weather plays in fiction.
Is there anything better than reading a story that immerses you so well you can feel the chill of the morning frost or the warmth of a sun beam?
It was a dark and stormy night . . . it’s a cliché but it serves a point! The weather can have such an effect on the atmosphere of your story.
The first book that popped into my mind was “The Shining” by Stephen King.
The Overlook Hotel wouldn’t be nearly so scary if the family could just hop in a car and leave – no, the story works so well because they are so isolated by the heavy snow.
Of course, heat can build an uncomfortable tension, too – just look at “The Great Gatsby”. It’s the hottest day of the summer when Gatsby finally confronts Tom. The tension is as unbearable as the sun.
The beginning of ‘Jamaica Inn’ is bleak and ominous – an omen of things to come, perhaps? The opening lines set the atmosphere so well as only Daphne du Maurier can:
“It was a cold grey day in late November. The weather had changed overnight, when a backing wind brought a granite sky and a mizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o’clock in the afternoon the pallor of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist.”
Weather and writing
Many “Friend” writers have told us during our Tuesday Writing Hour that they find their writing affected and inspired by the weather. Maybe there’s something to that.
One famous example of this is Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”.
In 1815, Mount Tambora erupted in Indonesia, bringing devastation to the surrounding area and far beyond.
Ash covered the sky in the Northern Hemisphere and so was nicknamed ‘the year without a summer’. With no sun, crops failed and famine spread.
The effects were still being felt in 1816 when Mary, accompanied by her soon-to-be husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and friend Claire Clairmont, visited infamous poet Lord Byron in Geneva.
The unseasonal weather they experienced drove them to stay indoors by the fire and read ghost stories to one another. Inspired, they challenged each other to write one of their own.
Mary Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’ as a result. Lord Byron wrote “Darkness”, a sample of which goes:
“Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:”
Had this freak weather never happened, these works of fiction might never have existed.
So, however the weather inspires you, write that story!