Let’s Discuss: The Importance of Weather in Writing

Posted January 18, 2015 in Discussion / 0 Comments

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Not a lot of people consider how important the weather is in a book. Well, I believe it is incredibly important to the story and its believability.

Especially the cold. Winter. Snow. Doing things outside in the snow. Blizzards. These things….are actually very difficult. Humans were not built to be able to stand these harsh conditions. We have had to adapt. Therefore, if you are writing a setting that is a harsh environment, weather should be a prominent factor in both your mind and the reader’s mind. It should come through in your writing that you realize weather is important. It should not be something to just pass over. If the reader thinks, ‘hey I could do that, easy,’ then that’s a problem. Because it is very likely that the reader cannot actually do whatever the character is doing, much less do it easily. Doing anything out in the snow is awful unless you are covered up very well, and even then it is still harder than doing it in nice weather. So then your character has to struggle. You have to make the reader feel the cold as well. You have to describe exactly what parts of the character are feeling frozen, because that is what’s going on in the mind of the character. I know that personally, I am very sensitive to cold weather and it is extremely distracting when I go out in it.

The example that came to mind first is from The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman. Lyra has to ride a bear out in the freezing landscape of the North. And she’s just a young girl, and inadequately prepared. Sure, more important things are going on, like people fighting for their lives, but just imagine trying to have an adventure like that in snow. Hopefully we will never have to experience that, but then…that’s what books are for. Books are supposed to make us feel that. Another example is Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore. She is Graced with survival, and how does she find this out? By weathering harsh conditions. She travels through snowy mountains and blizzards without enough clothing or food, carrying a young girl. Only she could have done that because she is Graced with survival. That is a very good example of emphasizing the importance of weather. I also recommend reading it; it’s one of my favorite trilogies.

It’s not just the cold; it’s the hot too of course. Probably the hottest I have ever been is in Brazil during the summer. Temperatures were over 100 degrees Farenheit, and I wasn’t even in short sleeves. Somehow I always choose the wrong clothing; I had 3/4 length sleeves. I was burning up. I actually got sunburned while in Brazil, and I never burn, so that was a big deal. And we were doing things in the heat- climbing mountains and whatnot. So I can say with firsthand experience that doing things in the heat is AWFUL. There is also one reason I say cold is better than hot, though- you can always put more layers on, but you can’t take any more off when you’re down to one. Unfortunately I don’t have very many examples of this in literature that come to mind immediately. Oh man, I keep thinking of some desert scenes, but I can’t for the life of me remember what books they came from. I feel like one was from The Chronicles of Narnia, one of those books, but I can’t remember which one.

Anyway, you get my point. Weather is not something to be disregarded. And it is something we all take for granted. If a book is not set in a harsh environment, we don’t think twice about the weather. So when it is in fact important to the story, it has to be really emphasized so that we know the character is going through a struggle and we feel it as well.

What do you think?

In the comments below, tell me what you think about the importance of weather. Agree/disagree? Anything to add?

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