Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rain, and setting a mood.

I woke up to massive amounts of rain today, beating on the roof like an angry army of squirrels. First big rain of the season, and if it weren't for the fact I had to go to work today, I would've gone out for a nice, long walk. I love the rain.

However, the rain made me think of mood, and how a writer can sometimes use weather to help create a mood in their writing. I set my novel, Unseen Damage, during a wet, rainy part of the year in San Francisco. I treat the weather in an anthropomorphic manner, making it one of the characters of the story, instead of just a backdrop.

Think about how powerful water is as a metaphor. A river can represent our journey through life, rain can be the cleansing agent not just for our bodies, but our souls. A great example of this, in film, is Kurosawa's Roshomon. Yes, I know... a film example on a writing blog? However, how Kurosawa uses rain in this film (and in all of his films, really) is a great lesson using weather not only as a mood setting device, but also as a metaphor for redemption. You can certainly watch this film and take away something you can later use in your writing.

I write noir novels, so my rain and weather tends to be dark, overcast, gloomy. However, you can certainly use a sunny day, wind, heat, or snow in the same way. Thinking about the weather world your characters inhabit opens up numerous layers of texture in your writing.

Give it a shot. Why not try writing a scene with your characters that takes place on a rainy day, then try it again with the same scene, but during a heat wave?

Use the weather around your characters to help build your world, make it more real. It doesn't have to be in the forefront, up in the reader's face; just enough to add another layer to the scene.


  1. Right on. I like to disappear into the books I read, engaging all five senses. As Tom Waits said - A little rain never hurt no one.

  2. Fantastic post!! I too love the rain! I get giddy whenever a storm (rain, snow, hurricane) approaches. There's just something about the energy in the air.

    Weather really does add another layer to a story, and though I do use it, I haven't quite pushed it as far as I should. I'll need to remedy that when I go through my edits. I usually opt for cooler weather in my stories-- freezing cold, rain that won't quit, ice and snow. If the sun does shine, it's only to lull my characters into a false sense of security.

  3. Love that..."an angry army of squirrels."

  4. I love thunderstorms - nothing better than all that crashing and lightning! I've got a few scenes where weather is vital in my ms, but not many. It would be fun to anthropomorphize it! I'll have to give it a try :)