"How’s the Weather?" Precipitation and Chit Chat as Fodder for Fiction

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

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7 Responses to "How’s the Weather?" Precipitation and Chit Chat as Fodder for Fiction

  1. Lisa L. Leibow says:

    I love the way you compared the weather to the villain's heart! Hope he warms up with a cozy fire instead of waiting for spring.

  2. Lisa L. Leibow says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Susan, Kat, Pat, and Morgan.I'm glad my little ditty about the weather sparked some ideas for you.

    Susan, stay warm. I'm hibernating, too.
    Kat, I hope you're okay after falling in the snow. And I love the fresh fallen snow — when I can ski on it. When I have to deal with it on a commute, or it gets gray with exhaust fumes and dingy, it's depressing.

    Pat, that is a challenge, but you do an excellent job making it work!

    and Kim, you flatter me. I'm a big ponderer and daydreamer, it does feed my fiction-crafting habit, yes.

    Thanks, everyone! Check back on Friday for the first of my 2010 monthly writing exercises. It's a contest!

  3. Morgan Mandel says:

    Great examples, Lisa.

    It's a frigid day here also, Susan. As cold as the villain's heart. Will he soften and turn from his ways when it gets warmer?

    Morgan Mandel

  4. Kim Smith says:

    This pondering habit of yours is why you are such a good writer!

  5. Pat McDermott says:

    Weather is a major factor in setting mood, all right, and it's a challenge when a story is set in Ireland, as mine are. I enjoy checking the weather reports in the Irish Times every so often to see how creatively they come up with different ways to describe clouds and rain and/or a combination thereof. Inspiring post, Lisa.

  6. Kat says:

    You have to be on the east coast because I was in that blizzard.:-) It hit on a saturday and I remember going down to get the mail and falling in a snowdrift. I don't think of winter and snow as bleak at all. In fact, winter's my favorite season. Everything just feels crisp and clean. Happy New Year.:-)

  7. susan says:

    Happy New Year Lisa. I will start with..it's a cold frigid day and there is something hidden under tons of blankets and winter clothes..ME!!!!.Like a bear you will find me in my den(Home) and I have no plans to go out until Friday when I go to work. I enjoyed the article here and it made me realize I do alot of this when I write letters to pen pals. I usually start a letter with a weather report. How funny things we do from habit never dawns on us until some one writes an article on it. ha ha susan L.

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