Oh, the weather!

In conversation, the weather is banality. It’s safe, superficial, bland.

In creative writing (fiction, travelogue, history, biography etc.), it can be the difference between yawn and alive.

The heart of writing is emotion. So, the foreground is characterisation and action, but there can be no foreground without background. The characters need to do their action in a vivid, live setting, or they stay two-dimensional, cardboard cutout figures.

The weather is an essential part of the background.

    The Captain asked, “Ameer, Sir, with your wealth now, couldn’t you leave the action to others?”

    Comfortable in the wheelhouse, happily steering the ship along a backwater of the great Niger River, Ameer Hoslo smiled at him, though it was too dark for the man to see. Although Aurora’s cloud had thinned, rain was still pelting down on the ship, and it was a night of new moon. Even the navigation lights were off. Ameer had most of his attention on feeling the surroundings with his magic, confidently guiding the ship as he’d done many times in the past. “Because I’d be bored with being a millionaire in Egypt. Because I’m the best man for the job. Because this way, no one can cheat me.”

    They laughed. Ameer rounded the last bend, saying, “Slow right down.”

    Within seconds, the ship nudged the pier with a gentle bump. The engines stopped.

You’ve never met Ameer before (unless you’re one of the beta readers of my Doom Healer series). Has he come immediately to life for you? Has the created reality of the story sprung into focus? Part of the reason is the dark night of new moon, with rain pelting down. It’s background, perhaps even skipped over, but very much a shaper of what’s happening, and what Ameer is shown to be able to do.

It would be a gross mistake to carefully embroider the weather and other aspects of background. The story must move, and that needs action. This is early in the book; character development is important. And, even if it weren’t science fiction, reality building is an urgent task. Words spent on description of anything, weather included, detract from all of these.

This is why I often say, writing is a charcoal sketch, not a photograph. Indoors or outdoors, a few lines about the weather add to the reality of the illusion you are creating.

Other participants

Rhobin Courtright
Skye Taylor
Rachael Kosinski
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse
Helena Fairfax
Judith Copek
Victoria Chatham
Kay Sisk

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About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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11 Responses to Oh, the weather!

  1. Jolanda says:

    I like the start of your story it got me in so where do I get the rest??????

    Like

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      It’s one of the early scenes from the third volume of the Doom Healer series. That’s the one I am still writing, when other commitments like editing, and preparing for the coming elections, leave me time.
      You’ll just have to wait!
      🙂
      Bob

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rhobin says:

    I agree nuances about a character’s reaction to weather and background can relay a great deal of information about him or her and the situation. When I read, I like to make my own judgements about a character and these subtle details can often relate so much, just like a charcoal drawing involves the viewer’s imagination more than a photograph.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Skye-writer says:

    I was thinking in terms of weather being a character, but you are absolutely right – oftentimes the weather helps to define the other characters. Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Skye, you are right. The weather can take center stage as well. I was very tempted to write about this passage instead:

        Right, everything locked up. Lorraine set the alarm and stepped outside as she saw Evie scurry toward her through the rain. “Hi love,” she called.
        “Hello, Mum. This wasn’t on the weather forecast.”
        “Oh well, you know Melbourne. If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” Thinking of that remarkable staff meeting, she drew her daughter into a hug. I love you just because you exist, she heard the boy say within her mind.
        Evie returned the hug, with a laugh. “Now I’ve wetted you, too!”
        Lorraine let her go. “Well, I do have to walk to the car. Wait here under the porch. I’ll be naughty and drive up.”
        “I’ll come with you and we can drive back together!”
        Laughing, they ran into the rain, and soon drove off.
        At the primary school, Reggie got in, looking grumpy. “Bloody rain,” he muttered instead of a greeting.
        “Reggie!”
        “What?”
        “Don’t swear.”
        “I got wet!”
        Whatever you’ve done, whatever you’re doing, Lorraine thought, and sent him love. Instead of reacting as usual, she laughed. “We did too. Luckily, water dries. Anyway, how was your day?”
        “Lousy as usual. This new girl keeps looking at me like I was a crim.”
        “Maybe it’s love,” Evie said, then grunted. “Mum, he punched me!”
        Sigh. Lorraine pulled over and stopped the engine. Again, she thought of Bill. How would he handle it? Calmly, she got out into the rain, walked around the car, to the back passenger door. Snarling, Reggie pushed the locking button. Smiling, she grasped the handle with one hand, pressed the button on her key to unlock it with the other, and swung the door open before he was ready. Now to surprise him. “Move over. I want to sit beside you,” she said gently, with a smile.
        “Huh?”
        Lorraine heard a click and his seatbelt slackened. Evie was thinking.
        She put a foot in, then her backside. He had to move over if he didn’t want her on his lap.
        “We’re wet anyway,” she said, put an arm over his shoulders and hugged him. “I love you, whatever you do, whatever happens.”
        He made his body rigid, resisting, and for a moment she was afraid he’d punch her, too, but then he relaxed. “Uh, yeah.”
        She gave him a little squeeze. “But that’s not permission to act like a monster. You mustn’t hurt people, particularly your sister.”
        He stiffened again. “Leave me alone!”
        “Well, we do have to get home, so yes, I’ll brave the tempest again. But please, act the way you’d want others to act toward you.”
        She got out again, hiding her sigh.

      Here, of course, the rain defines everything.
      Thanks for the visit, and comment.
      🙂
      Bob

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I loved the subtlety of your example. I agree that descriptions of the weather shouldn’t be there for the sake of it, but need to add something to the characterisation or plot. I enjoyed your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. okwriter says:

    Your comment about weather being an essential part of the background is interesting. It has me thinking. I consider weather as setting or maybe even a character, but background to make characters three dimensional and not two, is a different perspective. And I enjoyed your excerpt.

    Like

  6. Hi Bob, what a great example of just about everything. Loved it, anne stenhouse

    Like

  7. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Thank you Anne. The receipt of your comment gave me an excuse to escape my current editing job for a few more moments. It is a book by a very erudite gentleman from India.

    But even there, we’ve had mention of the weather.
    🙂
    Bob

    Like

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