No matter where you are in writing your story, weather can play a part in moving the action forward, defining a character, or throwing a wrench in the path of good or evil.
Great writers from Shakespeare to Steinbeck have successfully used weather in their stories. If it weren't for the drought, the Joads might never have set out to California. In The Tempest, we can't forget how Prospero used weather for his own good.
Here's how you can hurl lightning bolts at your villains or paint rainbows for your protagonists and get away with it.
PLOT. If you are stuck moving the action forward, change the weather. When your MC steps outside without an umbrella and is caught in a sudden downpour, does he slip into a cafe for a fortuitous encounter with someone? Does he hop on a bus to avoid the weather? Does that bus crash? Is it the wrong bus, and he ends up late for (work, a date, picking up a child)? Insurance companies don't take responsibility for acts of God. Neither must writers. Use storms, landslides, earthquakes. These things happen without notice.
CHARACTER. How do your characters respond to different weather events? Use them to reveal moods, fears, hopes, or long-lost dreams. Maybe every time it rains, your character is reminded of the day his dog died. Or whenever she sees a rainbow, she makes a wish. Don't go overboard. No one likes a cliche. Subtlety is your best move.
SETTING. Last but not least, we must talk about the obvious. Depending on where your story is set, some weather events just won't come up. It's unlikely an earthquake will hit in Iowa or that a monsoon will flood Arizona. If you are writing realistic fiction, study the weather in the area where your story is set. You might discover some freak storm that hit years back. You could use that for a tragic backstory, or it could be the reason for your character's behavior or motivation.
That's my story. What's yours?
Please share your ideas in the comment section below! Happy writing :)
Five years ago, the middle school where I teach fell behind. We were placed in the nation's Program Improvement status.
We had four years to get out, each year the state would raise our goal by ten percent. Imagine struggling in a marathon because you twisted your ankle. All your competitors' ankles are fine. They quickly get around corners, grab water and power snacks. You limp along, too late for a snack, too uncoordinated to grab the water.
In addition, your competitors have had personal trainers, healthy diets, secure home environments. You have not. You struggle. They don't. You get left behind.
Now imagine that every lap you run is ten feet longer than the one before. Come on, you can do it.
No, you can't.
Problem is, all runners aren't alike.
Neither are all kids. That's why the Common Core is killing creativity in our children.
I teach Creative Writing. It's my one elective. It's the one point in the day where all of my students in the room move at their own pace. There are no benchmarks. There are no tests.
There is plenty of instruction and modeling by their teacher, but when it's time to write, it's all them. They have choice and voice in what they say, how they say it, how far they take it.
I accept all their work; they all pass.
This class is about taking the teacher's passion and nurturing it in our students. Every student in school takes this Fifth Period Elective. It's Pass/Fail. Nary a one fails. Nearly every kid says Fifth Period is their favorite class.
They learn chess, juggling, golf, coding, knitting, crafts, animal care, creative writing, and more.
Common Core is killing creativity, but we are bringing it back, one period at a time.
If you have a student in your house, find out what they're writing in class. Then ask them what they'd really like to write about.
If they're not journaling their own ideas, buy your child a journal (a simple composition book will do), and sit together at the end of each day and write.
Use Natalie Goldberg's rules of writing to get you started.
Creativity is not common; it needs to be nurtured.
Nurture your child's creativity before it dries to the core.
My father keeps sending me pictures of his garden. He's retired, and he finds great joy tending to his rocks and shrubs. Since he lives in a drought sensitive zone, he plants only drought-tolerant flora. He calls his garden a "moonscape". It's true. The variety of cacti and rocks create a lunaresque impression. My father takes great pride in his creations.
You should also know that my father is a real rocket scientist, so a lunar landscape in his own backyard means something more to him. It's his chance to sit within an environment that 50 years ago he could only imagine. At 78, he has created his own life on the moon.
The other day, after viewing another digital photo, I realized something about my father's garden. Not only was it actually quite beautiful, it was also simple. Simple beauty. There was space between plants, and there were plants placed together that didn't really seem to go. But they did, in an odd exquisite sort of way.
Like I said, my father's a rocket scientist, not a gardener. He called in experts, landscapers, professionals to share their advice. He played with their ideas and mixed in his own creative design. Through some kind of symbiotic pairing, my father created this lovely lunar landscape where he can sit and reflect and simply be.
So it got me thinking about my writing. What can I learn from my father's garden? How is tending a garden like writing a novel?
I came up with a list of words that represent his process and results:
Simple. Time. Love. Joy. Pride. Creativity. Advice. Experts. Sharing.
I realized that writing is like gardening. You begin with love. You infuse creativity. You seek advice from experts and share with others. In the end - or even during - you feel a sense of joy and pride. All of this takes time. But most importantly, writing - like gardening - thrives with less. Simplicity is key.
Why do you write? How is your time writing like tending a garden? Or does another life task serve as a metaphor for you? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please share.
Lisa Reiter is an amazing and brave woman. (You’ll need to visit her website to learn why I believe this to be true.). She is also a creative writer who is generous enough to invite us into her world and share our memories.
Friday, May 2, Lisa initiated a weekly writing invite on her site called, BITE SIZE MEMOIRS. Lisa wants us to spend a few moments reflecting on the past and recording those thoughts to share with the world. Telling your story is soul-cleansing.
Northern California Author Anne Lamott has spent nearly her whole life writing about her family and self. Kind of like running a marathon on a treadmill – you race hard but never reach a finish line. It can be exhausting, but it can also be exhilarating.
In Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne says: “Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.” (Lisa asks us to be kind and leave out last names; she doesn’t want to deal with libel at all).
I’ve taken up this week’s challenge: Using the theme SCHOOL AT SEVEN, write 10 lines of “I remember” or 150 words. Check the website for the official unofficial rules. Whether you choose to share with the Lisa and us or not, you will enjoy remembering your childhood and all the crazy nonsense that comes along with growing up.
“School at Seven” by Ellen Plotkin Mulholland, b. 1963, California, USA
I remember my long blue flowered dress with the gathered bodice.
I remember swinging higher than my best friend.
I remember hearing the f-word from ginger-haired Tommy Something.
I remember creating Barbie towns and using our shoes as cars.
I remember recess and the large expanse of black asphalt, the kickball zone, the sandpit.
I remember sitting in rows, alphabetically.
I remember the green chalkboard and waiting for my turn to clap dusty black erasers on the pavement outside after school.
I remember waiting for my big brother and little sister at the chain-link fence.
I remember walking home and not taking candy from strangers and worrying about strangers and slow moving cars.
And I remember wanting to be 8 because that would be better than being 7.
Out west, over here on the left coast, in the dry deserts of California, we're having a drought. Oh, we had some torrential rains a few weeks back, but that was merely a drop in the bucket. Snow levels are at record lows, reservoirs are evaporating as we speak, and politicians are drafting water ration rules.
Droughts aren't fun. And for some reason, they seem to spring upon us water users like a tiger from the jungle. We heard about you, Ole Man Drought, but we never thought you'd actually show.
Sitting by my window as the sun filters gently across my writing desk, I realize there's something to learn here. Something to infuse my writing. Something to feed my plot.
How might a drought change events in my story? What would happen if there were a terrible rain storm that flooded the streets? What if my MC found herself caught in a rainstorm without protection? Who might show up to protect her?
I have a list of 27 possible scenarios from this "drought seed".
Nature has always played a role in my writing, but I failed to realize its ability to turn a plot. Nature is not a simple backdrop. Rain, drought, winds, snow can each play a role in the story. Nature is a character.
If we treat Nature as a character, imagine its possibilities. It no longer sits quietly in the background. It now has voice, dimension. Nature can have its own destiny. Nature does not need to be your central character, but it can show up now and again to place an unexpected twist or turn in your story.
Today, my character will walk outside in her summer attire expecting nothing but sunshine. She will be unpleasantly surprised as afternoon clouds arrive dark and heavy. Where can this sudden rainstorm take my plot? Where will it take yours?