What’s Rain Got to Do with It?

“…Into each life a little rain must fall…”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It’s raining this morning. And I’m glad. It’s not only that I love the rain—honestly I love a rainy day almost more than a sunny one.

But more importantly, it reminded me: I forgot to have any rainfall in my recently-completed first draft WIP (Work In Progress), that I blogged about here. Maybe it shouldn’t matter—I mean does every single novel need to mention the weather? Not according to Mark Twain, who reportedly received complaints from some readers about not including enough weather in his books (others complained there was too much mention of weather!).

I didn’t realize this about Mark Twain until I talked to MEH (My Engineer Husband) about my rain omission. He said it reminded him of the forward Mark Twain had in one of his books, The American Claimant. Consider this excerpt from a section called THE WEATHER IN THIS BOOK:

“No weather will be found in this book. This is an attempt to pull a book through without weather. It being the first attempt of the kind in fictitious literature, it may prove a failure, but it seemed worth the while of some dare-devil person to try it, and the author was in just the mood….”

Unlike Mark Twain, I’m not in the mood to exclude the weather. In fact, I am particularly surprised about my weather omission because my main character spends a lot of time outside in the natural world. Further, a house is being built. And both these things are affected by the weather, especially in a place where there are seasons.

Fortunately I am editing and rewriting my draft and can easily work in the rain and how it affects, motivates, and propels my main character—and my story.

But, more, today’s rain served as a reminder to me that I need to pay close attention to the details, and that these very details will help me create a more realistic, believable, and captivating story.

As Mark Twain said: “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” Do you talk about the weather in your writing? Is it pertinent to your story or irrelevant?

Cheers,

Julia

Comments

  1. JM Merchant says:

    Hmm…very good point. The only time weather gets a mention in my WIP so far is a massive storm at sea, but as it’s set in the Caribbean the presumption seems to be that it’s sunny most of the time.

    Glad you’re enjoying the weather where you are.
    Jo

  2. I’m definitely a rainy day person. Rain and clouds aren’t dreary to me at all. I always feel either peaceful or invigorated when it’s wet out. :)

    It wasn’t too long ago that I blogged about writing in weather to my stories, too!

    ~Ashlee
    http://ashleesch.com
    http://theDragonsHoard.bigcartel.com

  3. Weather tends to be very connected to mood and emotion for me so it does end up in my writing. I like reading something where weather plays a large role and is described in a lot of detail. It can be so dramatic.

  4. The weather is definitely included and pertinent in my WIP. My story takes place in Chicago over the fall & winter seasons (spring too, actually). I don’t mind reading about the weather in novels, as long as the author doesn’t go on and on, and as long as I feel it adds to the mood of the scenes. Right now I’m reading a novel that takes place in Poland, and the dreary weather is almost like a character in the story. I love all types of weather (including rainy days), which is partly why I’m back in Chicago after spending a few years in Miami—where there was never anything but summer.

    Hey, did you take that picture of the leaves in the water? It is a *really* cool photo!!

    Barb

  5. Details, details…the Devil is in the, you know.
    Thank goodness we can do rewrites!
    That is a beautiful photo, Julia. did you take it? I like the colors of the leaves, and the ripples in the surface of the water. Just lovely composition.

  6. Jo, Your WIP sounds intriguing! I love the idea of a massive storm at sea — honestly one of my biggest real-life fears! I love the rain, and I’m very much enjoying this rainy day (I guess predicted all week, so a good thing I like it!); massive storms not invited! :)

    Ashlee, I went back and reread your post — so good! I’m glad to find another rainy day person. I agree. Peaceful yet invigorating!

    Sara, I agree, very connected to mood and emotion, no question. Which is why it surprised me when I realized I hadn’t included it…. must be the mad rush way I finished :)

    Barb, I love that you describe weather as a character — very cool! I think of the setting as a character in my WIP in much the same way. Chicago weather must be somewhat similar to ours — so I can understand your happiness to be back, I did not enjoy lack of seasons in California when I lived there! And yes I took the photo! Thank you for the compliment!! :)

    Cynthia, Yes, thank goodness I can go back and rewrite and edit and revise and rewrite again! :) And thank you so much for the compliment on the rain photo! :)

  7. This was a really interesting blog, Julia, and a lovely photo too. I do tend to mention the weather, because, as you say, it’s part of the detail isn’t it and part of the bigger picture? I think it can be overdone though and have found myself mentioning it to set the scene instead of thinking of another way to set the scene. I suppose it’s that old saying – everything in moderation – isn’t it?

  8. Abi, Glad you enjoyed the photo & blog post! I was so interested in Twain’s comment as well as the fact that some complained about too much, others about too little — just as you say, it can be overdone. Yet it’s so personal. So I tend to be like you: moderation! (So I better moderate and get some in there! :) Nice to see you here!

  9. Cathy says:

    Rain, snow, hail, sun, wind, it’s all just the weather, as is joy, sadness, worry, satisfaction…

  10. Nancy Kelley says:

    Great post, Julia–thanks for the weather reminder. I mention rain twice for sure, when it’s likewise mentioned in Pride and Prejudice. I also mention sun a few times, grey skies, London winter…

    The thing I don’t include much of that comes as a surprise to many is description of my characters. I give generalities–Darcy is tall, Lizzy has dark hair, Georgiana has blue eyes–but not much more than that. One of my crit partners reminded me of this a few times, but I left them out on purpose. Jane Austen hardly describes them either, and I think for the same reason I had. I want readers to form their own pictures of the characters.

  11. Cathy, So nice to see you! I love the way weather can set a mood and also be part of the mood and feeling. Thanks for your comment!

    Nancy, Glad you enjoyed it! I know exactly what you mean about wanting readers to form their own pictures of characters — I feel the same way, and yet I do struggle with how much/when a bit. Of course I don’t want the “look in the mirror” or the weather report, but somewhere in between, and it’s definitely a challenge to me at times! What’s so interesting is I have a distinct picture in my own mind of each character, except the two main ones — weird, huh?

  12. Ann says:

    It’s funny….with fall coming food bloggers are mentioning the weather change and the FOOD change…weather is a HUGE deal there and I never thought about it until you mentioned it! It’s EVERYWHERE on the food blogs!

    Longfellow wrote one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs….I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. It was about his son in the Civil War. I love the poem and since I pretty much know every Christmas song….when I saw your quote, I immediately started singing (oiy!)

  13. Nancy Kelley says:

    Ann, weather is a huge deal in food! If you cook based on what is available locally, it affects your menu dramatically. Even if you don’t, there are kinds of foods you wouldn’t want to eat in the summer–heavy stews, for instance. Mmm, now I’m thinking of fall food and I’m happy.

    Julia, I should be honest… I’m just plain bad at describing what people look like. I don’t even mean just in fiction. If you asked me what my mother looked like, I’d have a hard time telling you. I “see” people more in their actions, how I relate to them, etc.

  14. artistsroad says:

    There’s an easy fix — just add a new opening: “It was a dark and stormy night.! You’re welcome! :)

    Patrick

  15. Ann, It makes such sense that weather would play a big role on food blogs! I had no idea that Longfellow wrote I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day! I had to go listen to it on itunes after reading your comment! :)

    Nancy, That’s pretty funny that you can’t describe even your mother… so interesting. By the way, now thanks to you and Ann, all I can think about is a hearty stew for dinner. Not on the menu, but it will be soon! :)

    Patrick, Thank you! Why didn’t I think of that!? And don’t worry, you’ll get a mention in the acknowledgement! 😉

  16. Now that I have confirmation, I must say… today’s picture is officially my favorite Wordsxo Blog Photo to date! I love the variety and color of leaves in the puddle, and also the way the rain droplets are making concentric circles (is that the right term?) and bunches of other cool shapes throughout the pic.

  17. Barb, I think you are my favorite commentor of the day! Thank you :)

  18. Girl Parker says:

    I totally agree with you — you gotta put a few rain storms in your WIP if they’re building a house. It may change how something happens or create an unexpected conversation. Have fun! Love the photo!

    Part of my story takes place in the SW heat, so it’s represented.

  19. I heart Mark Twain. :) “No weather will be found in this book.” Too funny.
    Interesting that you mention this because at the opening of my WIP it happens to be gray and drizzling. I recently gave the opening chapter to a friend to read who promptly pointed out the dozen or so times I mentioned that it was gray and drizzling. I don’t want to receive complaints, like Twain, so I’ll be cutting some of the many references. (Though I guess I should be so lucky to receive the complaints that Twain did!)

  20. Girl Parker, I love the thought of the unexpected conversation stemming from the rain — and you even planted a thought in my mind! Thank you! I can well imagine how the SW heat would play into a story; I grew up near the desert, and heat definitely played a role in my outside experience! Thanks so much for your comment and your visit to my blog!

    Jackie, I’m so happy to find another Mark Twain fan — he’s a huge favorite in this house. And that’s pretty funny about your WIP… I’ll keep that cautionary note in the back of my mind as I revise! What I think is hilarious about the Twain information is that some people thought he mentioned it TOO much, some not enough! Go figure. And yes, like you if I can get as many complaints as Twain, I’ll be thrilled! 😀

  21. Another great post, Julia (and did you take that gorgeous photo? WOW. LOVE IT). I think weather is paramount to depicting a novel’s mood (or a particular scene’s mood). I was made particularly aware of this fact when I was caught in a fierce thunder storm in the middle of the desert, on foot, three miles from home, next to a metal RR track while lightning cracked and flashed around me. That experience – of feeling the thunder vibrate THROUGH me – evoked a bit of fear, and lots of awe. I went right home and wrote down what I felt, because I want my readers to feel it, too. So I say, “Onward with your weather obsession.” If you edit it in and over do it, you can always pare it down later! The more the better!

  22. The weather plays a really huge role in my book, but I don’t think it did in the first draft. It wasn’t till I started revising that I added that layer, which eventually helped me discover a really important turning point in the plot.

    But it’s good that you’ll be going back in the revising stage to add more details! That’s what revising’s for, right? First drafts are like a foundation, and if you get too bogged down with details in a first draft it becomes hard to finish it. Edits are where you add the richness and focus on where you want to go now that you have it all laid out. That’s my favorite part about revision :)

  23. Pet says:

    I like rain too, it’s so soft on the skin and on feelings too!

  24. Fi says:

    Excellent post. My work in progress does feature weather. The first section of the book takes place in the rain. There’s also a rainbow (reminding us to look up sometimes and see the magic).

  25. Melissa, That lightning storm sounds terrifying! But I really appreciate the input to explore the weather and natural phenomena with this book — I think it’s so necessary to the story! (p.s. thanks for the compliment on the photo! :)

    Natalia, That makes me feel better hearing you say that you added the weather layer on revision! You are such an ecouraging and helpful writer friend — so good to have inspiration from someone further along the road! Thank you! (and I already have thought of how the story will be impacted by weather, so you are so right! :)

    Pet, You’re so right about rain — it can be so soft on the skin and feelings, I hadn’t thought of it that way. But it can be hard, too…. I think that’s why I love the thought of it in a story so much! :)

    Fi, Glad you enjoyed the post! I love the idea of the rainbow — what a great way to remind us to look up! (I *need* that reminder once in a while!) Thank you so much for your comment and for your visit to my blog! :)

  26. The post I just wrote for my travel blog opened by giving the weather. I wasn’t sure if that would bore readers – but doing a fall harvest fest on a perfectly sunny, warm day, to me, was part of the story.

    My latest completed manuscript is a screenplay set in the high desert of New Mexico. It’s usually sunny with a cloudless sky there, so I don’t think I had any weather incidents at all. Will have to scan the script to see what I did.

    Loved that passage from Mark T’s book with the heading The Weather in This Book. He is too funny!

    ~ Milli

    P.S. It’s rainy here today as well. I always miss the sunshine as soon as it vanishes (we never get enough in Northern OH) but, like you, I do enjoy a good rainy day. I’ve got my window open so I can listen to it and breathe it in as I work at my desk.

  27. First of all, it’s raining her this morning too! When i was in high school English, I remember learning about pathetic fallacy, which is that the depiction of weather in novels represents the mood of the story. So if it’s raining, that may mean something bad will happen. Once you keep that in mind, you pick up on it so much while reading.

  28. Milli, I can see why the weather would be really important in travel writing — especially so people know what to expect if you write about a place that’s raining but is usually sunny or vice versa! Now that the rain’s passed here, we’re left with sticky muggy above average temps — which I also need to make sure I include in the book: the humidity! (I’m with you Milli: when it’s raining I love to leave the windows open!)

    Leah, Rain in San Diego is delightful! I love the feeling of the California coast in the fall! Interesting about pathetic fallacy and how it keyed you into paying attention to weather! I love that kind of foreshadowing (if it’s not used too heavy-handedly!) and I’ll need to think about if/how to use it in my book — great reminder, Leah!!

  29. Susan says:

    Hmmm…never thought about the effect of the weather in my writing. I think it should be talked about if it makes a difference. Otherwise, I’ll leave it out.

  30. Susan, What’s so funny is that it definitely does make a difference in the book I’m working on — but it really didn’t occur to me until that day! Otherwise I might have left it out, too!! :)