When I first started writing, I wrote in a way one of my editors (one of my first year university english teachers) described as ‘writing like an engineer.’
I described actions, persons, thoughts and conversations, but I wrote very tersely and often missed vital description. It is a habit I have tried to break myself of, while also being careful to avoid the pitfall of too much description.
Little things around your characters and events are important. What time of day is it? What time of year is it? What’s the weather? What can they see, what can they hear? What can they smell (this is the one I find I miss a lot).
Weather is an awesome tool, though. Dramatic thunder and lightning are awesome and traditional, but don’t forget the simpler uses of weather. Rain can add to the dreariness of a long ride, or can enhance the privacy of a conversation. The end of Blade Runner, for example, would be at least a little bit less dramatic without the rain. But a warm gentle rain, such as you get in some more southerly parts of the world (I’m not much used to it up here in Canada), could be exactly what your character needs to calm them after a stressful conflict (hey, there’s conflict again) – or add that extra bit of intimacy to a romantic encounter.
And other uses – why didn’t the Empire’s huge army catch our rag tag bunch of misfits this time? Simple – it rained, and our characters slipped away while the much slowed them down.
Of course, like any other story tool, this is best used in moderation – and be careful that weather doesn’t only show up when its convenient. Mention the rainy days, and the sunny ones. Try and give the reader an idea of the climate. Don’t have the time the rain saves our plucky band be the only time you mention water falling from the sky in the entire book.
Weather, of course, can also provide conflict. Lord of the Rings, trying to cross the mountains. Its snow and wind, as much as Christopher Lee or giants (depending on whether you’re looking at the book or movie) that turns them back and forces them to take the fateful trip through Moria. Man vs. Environment is one of our core conflicts, and weather is an amazing provider of environmental conflicts. Winter is one of the worst natural killers we know.
So don’t forget to look outside when writing, and see what inspiration Mother Nature has for you.
(and in the obligatory goals update, Shadows of the Grey Tower is now at 27,393 words :))