Posts Tagged ‘Weather’

If you’re just joining the World-Builder’s Anonymous, you might want to go back to the beginning and start here.

But if you’ve been following along, read on!


Another interesting aspect of world-building I have discovered is the weather.

Weather literally shapes a world – rain feeds rivers that cut through rock over eons, swelling and diminishing to flood and erode. Wind shapes dunes of sand, scrubs landscapes or buries whole civilizations.

When we think of weather with world-building, the first thing that may come to mind is climate on a global scale (Star Wars was notorious for making the entire planet one climate/geological type – Tattooine the desert planet, Hoth the snow planet, Dagobah the swamp planet, Endor the forest moon, that forgotten name of the planet of the cloner people that had a perpetual stormy sea, etc. – which seems incredibly lazy to me). Globally, there are bands all along the globe where certain climates prevail.

Another thing with weather and climate is that it can shape culture. The people of the Brazilian Jungles have a very different way of life than the Bedouins of the desert, or the folk who live in the remotest parts of Siberia. Their subsistence is affected by what is available, which in turn influences what they perceive to be of most importance (which can give rise to which god(s) they worship), which influences their rites, traditions, even things as “mundane” as the way they dress. The light, airy robes of the Bedouin would hardly be appropriate for those in a jungle, where the long flowing fabric would catch on everything and anything as they pushed through the growth. Folk on the cold tundra couldn’t get by with the little or nothing of the jungle tribes, but they’re not going to be growing a lot of the plants by which they can make cotton/linen, so they would gravitate to animals with fur, etc.

I said ‘animals’ and ‘fur’ there, too, which leads into the other thing about weather and climate – it dictates what can survive there. A lizard that thrives in sunlight is hardly going to make it in Antarctica, but that cold inhospitable place is where you can find penguins. Tiny winged critters are going to find it difficult to thrive in areas with high winds because they’d just get knocked out of the sky or battered against the cliffsides – unless they had a very good “pre-sense” of winds coming on and can get to safety before the worst arrives.

If you’re just building a world just to build a world and have fun, then starting with the planet and giving it areas of different or severe weather is just grand. However, if you are building lightly to create the stage for something you are writing, you can easily go too far if you start with the whole world.

Let’s play along using the latter case, building lightly because you’re writing.

Weather can mean ambience. We’ve all heard the “It was a dark and stormy night…” cliché for horror or drama/thriller. As if horrible things can’t happen on a sunny, mild day. (That might make a good shocker, turning the trope on its head, to have the crime/horror committed on what started out as a beautiful Spring day.)

Weather can also be a hurdle to heighten conflict and suspense.

Sheriff JimBob is chasing Bad BillyRoy west to recover the money and bring him to justice, but the bridge that BillyRoy just used to cross is now floating down the river in pieces thanks to the storm that fed the river. And now JimBob is faced with crossing there, going out of his way and getting more miles between them, or stopping to help the family getting swept away in that same river.

It’s also the hurricane threatening Carrie Saylor who defied the others and rowed to the tiny island alone and ended up with a sunken boat and no shelter.

Used lightly, it can also be used to reinforce an alien setting in a fantasy or science fiction story, with radiation or EMP storms being a constant threat, or a methane rain (like on the moon Titan). For fantasy, there could be magical storms, which are magic in-and-of-themselves or somehow mess with the magic in freaky ways.

Weather can be a tool of the antagonist. For stories with fantasy/magic, this is a great gimmick of evil wizards, sending storms and altering normal patterns to cause misery in the land or directly against the protagonist.

Weather can be the primary antagonist itself – think of the disaster novels and movies with the threatening volcanoes, storms, etc. Sure there can be a lot of other antagonists (usually people taking advantage of the disaster or the panic beforehand).

Shows like Strangest Weather on Earth highlight some truly unusual events that could form the seed of a really good story too.

So, what’s your favorite weather event (mine is lightning, as I’ve mentioned before) and how could you use it in your stories? Share in the comments!



My favorite “weather event” – lightning!!!!! From Physics World

…but it could certainly help.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic region, we’ve been getting battered by storms of late (though thankfully not nearly so bad as the Northwest or out west in general. There as even snow in Vegas! So much for me moving there to get away from it.).

That got me thinking about weather as it pertains to fiction. Weather is one of those things we may not necessarily think about as obstacles or conflicts but can be extremely useful to the writer. Take your daily commute, for example. You have your routes, you know the traffic and the peculiarities of that particular way to go. Introduce a “weather event” and a simple trip that takes you 15 minutes now becomes an hour-long expedition. Ice coats the road, sending drivers slipping and sliding every which way, and that snaky road you just love to coast down in better conditions now becomes a threat to your life–that drop off of one side becomes all too apparent, and that little bit of guard rail isn’t exactly a bastion against disaster. Snow or rain comes down in blankets that keep you from seeing more than a foot in front of your windshield, erasing the cars, downed trees and every landmark. Suddenly, your normal drive becomes less-than-familiar. A threat, even.

Sometimes, the weather is a major plot device, like the cyclone in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum. Who could imagine Dorothy’s grand entrance into the magical world of Oz by just falling asleep and waking up? That dramatic, threatening cyclone needed to rip her house from its foundation and plunk her down in the middle of Munchkin Country. Many a romance has driven two people together by finding the lone cabin in the woods to wait out the storm. And what good ghost story around the campfire didn’t begin with “It was a dark and stormy night…”, making the chase through the woods all the more precarious when the hapless teens try to escape the Hatchet Killer.

How can you use this in your fiction?

Using weather that makes sense for the setting/genre, introduce it to spice up a scene that needs more tension:

The car’s tire blew out, so now your character has to change a tire. In the rain. With only mud beneath the car that won’t support a jack. And her ex-husband is somewhere out there, driving around looking for her. She might have to abandon the car, having to walk who knows how far without an umbrella, getting soaked to the bone. When she shows up at the only house on that lonely stretch of road, covered in mud and dripping all over the carpet, the farmer’s wife is going to be less inclined to help the poor soul than to wonder what she’s doing out there in the middle of the night.

A bolt of lightning could fry the electronics in his little puddle jumper, forcing the pilot to land in some pretty remote area of the Amazon jungle and have to fight through man-hungry jaguars and fierce tribesmen to get to the missionary outpost and deliver the medications before everyone ends up dead from some virulence sweeping through the natives and missionaries alike.

The squad missed meeting up with the convoy, and have to hoof it across the desert to reach their base, surrounded by hostile actors that could be occupying every town on the way just waiting to take them out, and the untried lieutenant must lead his men across the unforgiving land while a haboob bears down on their position.

Already dangerously remote, the lonely station falls under the deadly blanket of a blizzard that sweeps in and cuts off all communication and air rescue, leaving the scientists to deal with the isolation–and with the alien creature among them, taking them out one by one (okay, okay, that’s kinda based on Who Goes There? but you get the picture).

It doesn’t even have to be “real”. What about in a fantasy setting?

Without warning, a psychic storm broke out over the floating isles, threatening to plunge the landmasses into the abyss and robbing every one of its mages–the only ones capable of keeping them buoyant in the storm–of their abilities, and the only one who is immune to the storm’s fury is holed up in a crystal prison a thousand miles away.

So what is your favorite scene in a work of fiction that leans heavily on weather for its conflict? Or can you think of a scene in any work of fiction that could have been made better, in the context of the work, by introducing some kind of weather event?