One might think it cliché. Cliché or not, the weather sets the tone, mood, and can foreshadow what is to come. Even children know this. The other night while watching a movie with my family, I commented that the setting was Southern California and that it never rains in California, my son, Thing 1, pointed to the character on the screen and said, “Yes, but he’s sad now, it has to be raining.”
I guess I learned this at a young age, too. My days of reading the Sunday comics assisted with my education on the matter. When Charles Schultz’s Snoopy sat atop of his doghouse typing, “It was a dark and stormy night,” I knew something bad would happen next in the story he was writing.
The weather over the past two weeks has made me think of trying to use the change in weather as the framework for a story – only the opposite way I normally would. Often I think of the storm occurring during the greatest trouble – the story’s climax. However, two weeks ago, we had a blizzard – buried in 20 inches of snow. A few days later it warmed up and the rain fell, leaving us with nothing. This has my wheels turning. I’m not sure if the storm makes us start the story with trouble, or whether the snow will symbolize something clean, new, or abundant. But clearly, I could craft a plot that follows the fate of the snow. The protagonist will get played with, trampled on, pushed around, muddied, and then washed away to nothingness. It’s beginning to sound like a bleak tale.
Perhaps, instead, the blanket of snow can symbolize something hidden – a mystery, or a quest. As the frigid weather warms, our hero could discover additional clues or get closer to finding his treasure. The mud and dirty snow that the traffic, snow plows, and salt trucks carry can be in the background during some major obstacle the hero encounters while trying to solve his mystery or discover his fortune. Against the backdrop of snow all melted, roads and sidewalks clear of ice and slush, and bare ground revealed once again, our hero will solve the mystery or complete his quest.
As you see, I strive for ways to build a structure. I love to daydream, to ponder the world around me. There are ideas everywhere. So next time someone makes small talk and asks, “How’s the weather?” I’ll take special note of the current meteorological status. That rising barometric pressure could be the spark I need to write something great!
Best to you,
Lisa Lipkind Leibow
Author of Smart Women’s Fiction