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Weather or not…

This piece in Salon about how rain is often used in literature and film to create or punctuate a mood, advance the story, or simply provide an arresting backdrop to the goings-on, tickled me because it immediately led me to run a mental list of rain-filled books and movies.  And, sure enough, rain as metaphor and plot device is everywhere, in ways big and small.

Of course, I’ve been railing for years about weather.com writing, imploring authors not to open their work with long descriptions of weather or geographic conditions.  While I get how irresistible it is to set about capturing in words/images the awesome power of nature, very few authors can make non-catastrophic meteorological events compelling over a large span of narrative. 

That said, there’s no denying that weather is great for atmosphere (tautological pun intended).  From the foggy moors of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, to the feverish heat of Lily King’s Euphoria, skillful depictions of weather conditions help make literary works unforgettable.  Many years later, you may not remember other details of a story, but you probably recall the sense of humid discomfort in the bayous or the crispness of a spring day in southern France. 

What are your favorite weather sequences?  And, which authors do you feel use weather most effectively?

Lake

3 Responses to Weather or not…

  1. anon says:

    In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to recommend Beth Kephart’s “A Slant of Sun,” Annie Dillard’s “A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” and all of Mary Oliver’s poetry collections. These women’s mastery of words and nature opened my mind to new depths of light and color, the vibrancy of fauna and flora, the heaviness of rain pouring on one divided soul, and the hope of the warm sun upon ones face.

  2. Carol Svec says:

    The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)! I read it so long ago that I barely remember the plot, but I can still feel the African weather descriptions.

  3. As a Michigander, I feel compelled to cite the late Elmore Leonard’s number one rule for writing well: Never start a book with a description of the weather. Places other than the beginning, however…

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