Day 164 – Writing the weather, show don’t tell

Day 164 of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words for Days 163 and 164: 1,100

Writing about the weather as characters experience it is enjoyable. One aspect that I enjoy is coming up with creative descriptive terms. I’m currently writing a scene that is taking place during a winter storm. Since I live in Vermont and have lived in New England my entire life, I know quite a bit about the subject. I appreciate the beauty of a winter storm, but I also respect its power and my small, humble place in it. Writing this comes naturally to me.

Another aspect of writing the weather that I find enjoyable is the challenge to not sound like a meteorologist while using descriptive terms. This doesn’t come so naturally, but it is tons of fun. For example, I might wish to describe how the character is hiking through “heavy snow falling at a rate of two inches per hour” and battling “cold winds with a wind chill of ten below zero.” Hello, Al Roker. Sure, this is informative, but it isn’t descriptive. This is what I wrote instead, attempting to be more descriptive and less like Al:

The snow was falling fast, raining down in blankets of tiny crystals. Skylar’s feet and hands were almost completely numb despite wiggling her fingers and toes to keep the blood moving. She blinked to free the crystals of ice forming on her eyelashes, a frozen mixture of snow and tears.

And:

The snow was piling up on their shoulders and in the creases of their jackets. Their hats were completely covered in white. Mike’s eyes squinted against the stinging cold flakes, his lips pressed together in a crooked line. Each step was a tremendous effort, slow and heavy against the wind.

These passages probably need more work, but they were fun to write.

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4 thoughts on “Day 164 – Writing the weather, show don’t tell

  1. Both great examples, Erin. I think the second one was cleaner (the first one had a few places with extraneous language, in my opinion), but the first one had that great question: why were there tears in her eyes? Was it the cold alone, or is there something more to her abominable trek into the cold?

    By the way, since I’ve been gone, your writing has improved. I don’t mean to patronize, I’m just saying I notice a big difference after only a month!

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    • Thanks! I love the feedback – every bit helps me learn and improve. If you don’t mind, I’d like to hear more about cleaning up the extraneous language – that is one of my biggest weaknesses. I respect your opinion and suggestions, so don’t be afraid to put it all out there. I won’t be offended!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I will try my best, though much of this deals with issues of style ((or voice), point of view (the narrators), where the paragraph belongs in the bigger picture (does this section need to be slowed down? Are these details REALLY important? Are there other details that are more important that we should be focusing on?), and the fact that I rushed through reading this (that’s on me, sorry.)

        Disclaimer: What I am going to suggest will not necessarily make any of this writing ‘better’. It is just how I would choose to write it.

        There are a hundred different ways you could rewrite the first sentence, but what bothered me most was the phrase ‘ice crystals’. Realistically, we know that snow is made up of tiny ice crystals, but we don’t usually refer to everything by it’s molecular structure, right?

        So, in my opinion, the first sentence suffers from ‘purple prose’ (overly flowery language that begs attention). Does snow rain? Does anyone care that snow is made of tiny crystals? We should be more concerned with how this snow affects Skylar, how this makes Skylar’s plight more desperate.

        The second is fine, except that I would nitpick (this is very unimportant, because I honestly believe your two paragraphs were great examples of scene-painting) – anyway, I would nitpick that if the snow was falling fast, she probably wouldn’t be standing around to wiggle her toes. I doubt she could feel her feet, if her hands were already going numb (but it’s possible). So I would drop the mention of toes.

        The last sentence was what really struck me, and I don’t think I would touch it.

        “The snow fell in sheets, slicing at Skylar’s frosted cheeks. The girl wiggled her fingers to keep them from going numb; her feet were already frozen. She blinked to free the crystals of ice forming on her eyelashes, a frozen mixture of snow and tears.”

        More action from Skylar, and now the snow is in simple past instead of past progressive. Again, these are horribly minor changes, and I ended up only cutting down five words. But, there is more emotion (I think) and fewer unnecessary words (you used completely in both paragraphs, Erin! Watch it!).

        I hope this was helpful, and not just in the “Yes, you definitely helped me see that I should never listen to you again,” kind of way.

        Liked by 1 person

        • This is super helpful. I don’t mind the nitpicking as I am a huge nitpicker. It’s so eye-opening to hear what others are getting out of my writing: what they pick up that I’ve missed, what they missed that I was trying to convey (and doing poorly, if they missed it), what they view as unnecessary that I didn’t even notice. I will use these tips…especially keeping an eye on my overuse of words like ‘completely’…argh. Thank you so much!

          Liked by 1 person

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