with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Writing Advice: Talking About the Weather

Ice crystals, photograph by Brent VanFossenDescribing the weather is a hard cold fact for any writer, no matter what genre they work in. No matter where you are, inside or out, you are affected by the weather, as are the people and places you write about.

Finding the words to describe the temperature, weather, and impact of the two upon the human body, can often leave the writer finger-tied. After all, the thesaurus has dozens of words just for “cold” such as chilly, cool, freezing, raw, icy, frigid, frosty, arctic, glacial, polar, brumal, and nippy. Let’s do a brainstorming assignment to come up with words describing the different references to the weather.

The Hard Cold Facts

If you were making a category list of the common cold weather elements, you might begin with rain, snow, hail, and wind. Then create subcategories under each. Under wind you might have tornado, hurricane, wind storm, or sea breeze. Under each category and subcategory, write down words and phrases to describe them. Some we’ve mentioned, but also consider brisk, breezy, icicles, cracking, crackeling, and good old “wintery”.

The same applies to every weather element. Let one word lead you to another word. Keep thinking about the feelings, smells, taste, sight, smells, and even sound that weather makes.

Trying to describe the summer heat of Israel, here are a few words I came up with for “hot”.

Heat, hot as hell, interminable, cooking, inflamed, flame, fiery, suffocating warmth, melting, sweaty, perspiration, angry, red hot, hot to trot, torrid, swelter, sultry, high temperature, temperatures rising, heat wave, boiling, piping hot, right out of the oven, out of the frying pan and into the fire, scalding, baking, blistering, sizzling, scorching, roasting, spicy, peppery, blazing hot, stuck in an oven, toasted, burned to a crisp, sunburn, fever, flushed, beaten down with the heat, air conditioning (a blessing!).

When you’ve filled out your list, take a break and look out your window or step outside the door.

Arava Desert, Southern Israel, photograph by Brent VanFossenClose your eyes and feel the weather. Think of a situation where you might be under such weather conditions. Visualize the location in your imagination, the activity, and all the elements around that

Now, return to your writing pad and describe that moment, focusing on the weather. How does it impact or affect the situation? Is it really an important part of the story or is it just filler? Do your words really describe the weather at that moment? Can the reader “feel” the weather through your words?

Considering all the ways writers deal with weather, you now have a new collection of resources to draw upon to add some more color to your weather talk.

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