Last night, sometime after 10:30 in the evening, my husband and I cuddled in bed while watching an episode of Horatio Hornblower off of YouTube. The episode ended, and as my sweetie got up to turn off the computer, my super smeller pregnant nose picked up the faint odor of dirt.
“I smell dirt…or maybe dust. Oh it’s awful, it feels like it’s in my face and hard to breath. Can you smell that?”
He looks at me, “Nope.”
“Really?” I asked, pulling the sheets up over my head. “Wait, wasn’t there supposed to be a dust storm today?”
He pulls back the curtains of our bedroom and… sure enough! Nothing but palms and ficus trees swaying in a haze of brown. Woa! We hadn’t been able to hear the wind through our window, but there was obviously enough of it to toss around all of the sand in town. I figured if I could smell it inside the house it must be seeping in from somewhere. I asked my husband to shut the cat door so that it wouldn’t let in any of the dust that way.
5:00am KABOOM!!! Thunder, lightening, and torrential downpour … and seemingly right above our home. It was so loud… and awesome! Having just finished that George MacDonald book, it brought to memory the scene of little 8 yr old Sir Gibby climbing as high as he could up a cliff, and standing there as a storm thundered around him… too enthralled and enchanted to be scared.
Just then I heard a little “mew” and figured the cat had been left outside when Aaron shut the cat door. Sure enough, I got up to open it and in came a very wet Rose. The two older kids had woken up, and like Sir Gibby, were utterly taken in by the whole noisy event (we don’t get much rain in the desert, after all)… not scared at all. The two younger ones slept through the whole thing.
I reread an article the other day on the role that the weather plays in stories… or should play. That when writing, you should treat the elements like one of your characters, allowing it to weave throughout your story and interact with those that come into contact with it. How would one of your characters react to a thunderstorm? Would they love it? Hate it? Would they be frightened? Could you use it to change your character’s mood so that he/she starts an argument for no good reason? Or make them more likely to become amorous?
Speaking to my sister-in-law about it today, she mentioned how scary it was for her feeling like the storm was just above their heads. She didn’t like it all. That was certainly different from my reaction, but probably not that uncommon. The article suggested, that when writing a story, you might want to ask friends and family how they would feel in such or such weather. Different people react different ways. What’s the personality of your character?
In my first book, Beneath Outstretched Arms, my husband caught some of this for me. I had written that it was Christmas time in December when Velena left her family’s manor, but had described the wagon rolling along a dusty road. He pointed out that in England the ground would have been covered in snow. I had totally missed this, and was once again grateful for his help. I was then able to go back and have her interact more with her cold surroundings… adding in that she pulled a fur lined cloak closer about her body, or that she was warmer by the fire than in her tent, etc… I think that I probably could have used weather a whole lot more than I did, and hope to improve on this in the future. Weather was used hugely in George MacDonalds book, The Baronet’s Song, and I could tell how fine a book it was because of it.