The leaves blow past the window, spinning and twirling in the wind as they travel to a resting place. The emptiness of the trees casts new and different shadows on the ground while also letting more sunlight stream in through the window. The wind whips past those same windows, making a whistling sound as it points out deficiencies in the way-too-old weather stripping which has needed to be replaced for several seasons now. Stepping outside, the warm smell of a wood fire from someone’s fireplace fills my nose while my lungs ache from the sudden intake of cold air. The frozen grass and dried leaves crunch beneath my feet, adding yet another sound and sensation to this season. The rain coming down in sheets has to go somewhere when it hits the ground, but where can it go when the ground is frozen and the leaves are clogging all the drains?
The change of seasons and the day-to-day changes in the weather can be inspirational from a storytelling perspective. Just as it does to you or me, little changes to the environment in your story can mean big things to your characters. The weather and the seasons dictate the types of clothing your characters wear, the amount of time they spend outdoors and even their mood and outlook (I know that I, personally, definitely feel less happy on the darker, cloudier, cooler or drearier days).
Incorporating the environment into your stories can make them much richer and more realistic. I don’t mean you start your stories or chapters with “It was a dark and stormy night…” or anything like that. The choices your characters make when faced with their environment can build a lot of details about them. Why does Joe wear shorts, even in the dead of winter? Why does Suzie always carry an umbrella, even on sunny days? How does the village in your story celebrate the solstices or equinoxes?
Jokes abound about how we as human beings “talk about the weather” when we don’t know what to say. There is truth to that idea that we do this, but why do we do it? I’d say it’s because the weather is one thing that every single one of us has in common. Sure there are regional differences to the changes in seasons and even to the duration or severity of storms. But still we all are able to talk about the weather because it is a common enemy or ally in our existence on this planet. And while I wouldn’t recommend dedicating entire chapters or thousands of words detailing the specific nature of the exact angle at which the windblown rain is falling against the leaky windows, I do think that the existence of the rain and the wind and even the leaky windows should be touched upon, especially because of the impact it has upon our characters. It is another case of being careful to include enough detail, but not too much.
Having your characters stand around and talk about the weather for paragraph after paragraph is boring; having them interact with the weather can be insightful.
Do you include the weather and seasons in your stories? What tips and tricks can you share about doing so without spending too much time and too many words on it?