Does weather influence our writing? Most of us would agree that just about everything in the universe influences our writing, but weather could be the box most checked. Would Ahab’s confrontation with a whale have taken place if not for a typhoon? A sun streaked afternoon turning into a windswept evening can quickly change your character’s attitude, attire, or agenda.
Having just observed the ravages of Hurricane Florence, as it made landfall in North Carolina before making its way to South Carolina, we know a very serious human and environmental impact was made. If we did not experience it first hand, we were able to read about it.
Just about every news source in America and throughout the world produced reams of Florence filled copy and millions of weather-related posts and clicks. With the storm headed in our direction, we were thirsty for news of it. With good reason.
The results of Hurricane Florence are far from over for many in South Carolina, and devastatingly so for thousands in North Carolina. This is the fourth year in a row Carolinians are facing the tormenting results of tropical storms. The written history of our shared coast bears witness to the others that came before those four years.
Weather events do not just show up in history books. Goodreads alone has a list of hurricane related stories in the hundreds, ranging from fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature.
The truth is weather can be a powerful source to writers. Not only can it play a part in setting a scene, like in the great Moby Dick, it can hook you with a first line.
Consider George Orwell’s 1984. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” As noted in The Fiction Desk, Orwell changed his opening line by adding the word bright to the description of the day, giving the reader a deeper visual of that infamous day.
“It was a dark and stormy night,” penned by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton in 1830 for the novel Paul Clifford is one of the most quintessentially well-known and often mocked examples of a melodramatic opening line. We rarely consider the actual novel, but the lessons from that opening line are endless. A popular cartoon beetle even made use of a dark and stormy night to inspire his well-loved very fictional novel.
The question remains, where will Florence show up in our own work as we move forward?
Will your novel’s latest chapter have a stormy inflection? Did you pen a tempest-based poem over the weekend? Were words of worry laid down in simple notes? Or, was your humidity-infused brain prompted to write a blog? For those who suffered from much more than changes in barometric pressure, the storm’s impact may be life-changing with effects on the written word years down the road.
Several writers in my SCWA Chapin Chapter inferred that drastic weather changes can improve or diminish their writing. Sunny days may inspire happier stories, while rainy days bring on more serious and darker tones.
Consider visions of a blue sky filtering through woods of pine, gently lapping waves on a calm lake, or cloud-soaked skies above a deserted wind-swept beach. These climate related settings take our minds to varying places. Our characters may then be forced to follow.
The results may not be the likes of Moby Dick, but you may have found your place in the story. Hopefully, your readers will too.
So, whether your story is weather driven or not, please take a page from literature and this past weekend. The ending of a dark and stormy night will eventually lead to the beginning of a bright new day. Be grateful and keep writing!
The Board of Directors of the South Carolina Writers Association (SCWA) join me in sending positive thoughts to all members of the SCWA as our state recovers from the impacts of Hurricane Florence.
We look forward to seeing you at upcoming chapter meetings, workshops and the 2018 Pawley Island Writers’ Conference.
Sue Cryer is a member of The SCWA Board of Directors and works as a Freelance Writer in Chapin, SC. She is a former Newspaper Correspondent and Feature News Writer.