• Jessica Sherry

Dark & Stormy Writing Ideas

It's raining outside. A steady, gentle drizzle. The house feels darker, drearier, but only until I flip on a few extra lights and fire up my desk candle. It's cozy, now. Quiet. Reflective.

The rain got me thinking about, well, rain, and how effectively it can be used in fiction. The rain feeds the earth, and likewise, feeds writers' imaginations. So much can be done with rain. The smell of it. The feel of it. The sexy of it (remember The Notebook?). The creepy of it (IT). The joy of it (the little birds are having so much fun out there; it's a feeding frenzy). The inconvenience of it. Funerals, flat tires, ominous dinner parties (ah, Clue, my old friend) all seem to happen in the rain.

Here's a storm of ideas on how rain might be utilized in a story:

  • A reflection of mood, most often representing sadness, depression, danger, fear, or heartbreak. But it doesn't have to be negative. Rain can also be joyful, cozy, romantic, or fun (Remember Newman, the postal worker from Seinfeld? Whenever it rained, he called in sick to work... he loved the rain). In other words, rain doesn't have to be a cliche.

  • Character development. How your MC reacts to rainy weather reveals insights into her character. Is she a umbrella, rubber boots, and raincoat type person? Is she too scatter-brained to be prepared? Does she jump in puddles? Does she think she'll catch her death?

  • Moving the plot. A little stormy weather could be just what a story needs to move forward. Rain disrupts real life all the time. Car accidents. More traffic. Sports cancellations. Allergies. How might rain impact your MC's activities? Change her plans? Make her late? Make her miserable? Did she leave the top down on her Jeep last night and now she's going to show up to the important meeting with a wet ass? That's funny... I might have to use that one.

  • Realism. Details make stories come alive for people. Throwing in a little rain here and there should give the story authenticity. Unless you're story world is a utopia... or Southern California (at least according to a song by Tony! Toni! Tone!).

"It was a dark and stormy night." ~ the first line of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1830 novel Paul Clifford

One of the most famous first lines in literary history, this sentence is either trite or genius depending on who you talk to or what article you read on Google. The author goes on to describe the rain:

"... the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

Is that such a bad opening for a story about a gentleman/criminal who falls in love? I'm no scholar, but the rain, especially the way he describes it, creates a palpable, ominous mood. That's probably what he was going for, right?

Here's some other rando-thoughts about rain:

  • Rain could ruin a crime scene, wash away evidence, hairs, fibers, foot prints.

  • Rain could be ironic... It's raaaaiiiaannn on your wedding day ~ Alanis Morissette

  • Rain can smear mascara, frazzle hair, kick up against the backs of legs, and get into shoes, especially sandals and heels--that makes 'em even harder to walk in.

  • Rain keeps people inside... cue up the cozy stew and board games.

  • Rain changes routines. For example, I will not be going for my walk in the park today. If someone had planned to encounter, stalk, or murder me there, he or she would have to adjust.

  • Rain reduces pollen, but exasperates allergies to mold, grass, weeds, and dust. Asthma symptoms are worse in the rain. Could be important for a character with allergies or asthma... or what about a mold-related virus, plague, pandemic?

  • Rain gives you more things to carry... bag, lunchbox, purse, keys, library books, raincoat, umbrella, extra make-up to fix the damage... More things to carry means more of a chance of losing or forgetting something.

A little bit weirder now...

  • What if the rain instigated the crazies the way the moon supposedly does?

  • What if the rain became toxic somehow?

  • What if rain puddles were portals to other worlds?

Whew, too much coffee.

What about your ideas? How might rain be used in your story to enhance mood, character development, plot, and/or realism? Share below.

Or for more ideas, check out www.coffeebrained.com