Monday, January 3, 2011

Unusual Weather


Hope everybody had a great holiday and New Year celebration. I missed the blogosphere while I was gone!

I also hope y’all got home safely, if you were traveling. There has been bizarre weather over much of the break here in the States. Tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes, massive amounts of rain…it’s been a real mess.

It actually snowed on Christmas Day—the first time this had happened in North Carolina in any measurable amount since 1947.

We do usually get snow in Matthews, but it’s in February, which is our coldest month of the year.

Snow in the South is unusual enough that we don’t have a lot of snow plowing equipment here. And the snow melts during the day—and freezes at night as ice. It’s beautiful here when it snows…but treacherous.

It made me think of all the unusual weather in books that I’ve read. The weather in the books stands out because it was so striking to the characters in the book or because it made a difference in the plot. As a reader, it stood out to me, too.

The heat in New York while the group is at the Plaza Hotel in The Great Gatsby. The Tempest and the storm that Lear suffers through in King Lear. The Grapes of Wrath. Just about anything in Dickens. The Wizard of Oz. Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Depending on how it’s treated, weather can be an important element in the book. It can create stress or discomfort for the characters, or causes them to act out of character. Murder mysteries frequently use weather to cut the characters off from the rest of the world (and law enforcement) and isolate potential victims with a killer.

Weather can be overdone, of course, too. If there’s a big storm during a character’s moment of personal crisis, I’m probably going to roll my eyes a little bit.

What seems to work best in books is either for weather to either add a little background ambience for a scene or else for the weather to take more of a center stage role—times when the weather is something really unusual. Something that the characters will remember as striking weather, even years later. Something the reader will remember as striking weather.

As a reader, can you remember times the weather really set the mood in a book? Do you use weather in your own writing, and how?