Weather as my Least Favorite Character

As you may have seen from my previous post, I was going to write this yesterday, but found myself without any power. I really should start writing these posts in advance.

As a native Southern Californian (born and raised!) I knew two seasons: the occasional rain during the winter months and fire season later in the summer and into early fall. Rain in July was always a huge shock (but it has happened, when I was working at a summer day care full of kids that wanted to go out and play in the pouring rain). The fires were expected and turned the skies orange and the air chock full of ashy particles. As terrified as I am of fires and the dried vegetation that fuels them, I do miss the daily warm, sunny weather with hardly a cloud in the sky. Having lived in that climate all my life, I never really thought about any other kind of weather pattern. I didn’t think about snow and hurricanes and tornadoes. I knew rain and 90-100 degree weather. I knew deserts since I grew up on the edge of one. I knew coastal weather since I lived near Los Angeles and never went a summer without going to the beach. Weather was either gorgeous or it was gray and raining. That’s just the way it was. So, that’s what I wrote. I guessed at the snow and never thought rain in the summer was possible.

And then I just had to go to graduate school in southeastern Pennsylvania. So, my husband and I moved to the east coast. I honestly had never really thought of humidity. I knew it existed, but didn’t think it was anything to worry about. And then I stepped out of the car somewhere in Kansas City and immediately closed the door. It was hot! And the air felt damp! And I couldn’t breathe! What the heck? Now it’s the bane of my existence every summer, but at least I can write it now. The rain in the middle of the summer was also a shock. Hurricanes? I thought only Florida and Louisiana got them. Needless to say, Hurricane Irene in 2011 freaked me out. We lost power for about 3 days, and then witnessed a tree on the power lines when Hurricane Sandy came through. I guess I kind of know hurricanes now? But, just in general, rain showers in the summer was very confusing since, in California, it was cold and rainy, but, on the east coast, it was hot and rainy. So confusing to this California girl! But this winter is really the worst of it all. I used to go up into the mountains and play in the snow for an hour or two as a kid. I thought I knew what snow was. Nope. It’s scary white and is a pain to get off my car while it’s still snowing and I still have to get to class. There’s still snow on the ground, and more is forecasted. I’ve learned there’s powdery snow and more compacted snow and ice that results from very cold temperatures and melted snow. Driving in the snow makes me drive white knuckled and I can tell you I don’t think I’m more religious than when I drive and have snowflakes pounding my windshield.

As freaked out as east coast weather has me, and I’m really not where it can get really bad, it has taught me a lot. The weather in the more stories to date has been quite boring. I didn’t think it could affect life so much. But if it’s a disruptive now, what must it have been like before electricity and cars and technology? Before snow plows and salted roads? Before good heating systems that don’t require you to hope you’ve stocked up enough wood for the fire? But I’m still not sure if I know weather well enough to write it convincingly. I’ll probably still write the character that prances around in the snow for a few hours without feeling much of a chill. I hope I can remember my experiences and my characters’ histories with weather to write the effects of weather more convincingly. But it sounds hard and time consuming and it’s far too much to keep in mind along with who the characters are, where they are, what they’re doing, and what their supposed to be doing. The truth is, though, that if the weather can affect me, it can certainly affect my characters. It can change a whole story! As a result, I see weather as a separate character, a character with a great deal of power, an unpredictable character that can either aid or hinder and is neither good nor bad.

So much work, but probably so worth it. I appreciate Weather, but it’s mercurial and a pain in the neck to write convincingly.

7 Comments

  • Melissa Osburn

    This is a very interesting post! 🙂 I’ve always heard that dry heat was more tolerable than humidity but I’ve never experienced it. Lol, snow is a lot more fun when there is only a couple of inches on the ground and not several feet! I think you have an excellent point about weather and writing what we have experienced. I don’t think I’d be very confident writing about a hurricane, never having gone through something like that. Again, this was an interesting and thought-provoking post!

    • katpersephone

      Thanks! I never really appreciated weather and what an effect it can have until I moved to the east coast. It’s made me think a lot about incorporating it better into my writing. And it’s probably also important that I keep my characters and what they’ve experienced in mind. As you pointed out, someone who hasn’t experienced one kind of weather wouldn’t know much about it and would experience different kinds of weather differently. And, yeah, I definitely think dry heat is better! =)

  • annjohnsonmurphree

    Welcome to the world of the midwest artist, writer; paints dry differently and speaking of character assassination; this winter has sent all of my “people/characters” into semi-hibernation. They are southerners they need warmth and sunshine. Great post! ajm

    • katpersephone

      I’m still learning to love the snow, but there are so many ways to utilize it in a story that I can’t stay mad at it for long. I’ve heard Colorado is beautiful, so lucky you!

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