I was going to write about something entirely different today, but as I sat riveted watching the non-stop Hurricane Florence coverage, it occurred to me that we must weave weather into our novels to ensure realism. Writers should also take advantage of timely, newsworthy topics, so here goes.
If you ever plan to include a hurricane in your novel, now is the time to notice the evacuation demands, unfortunate price gouging, the mad packing and stuffing of cars/vans/RV’s, the 24/7 news coverage, boarded up homes (as well as the non-boarded homes from the I’m-riding-this-out folks), the sand bag lines, never-ending lines of traffic, looming, swirling radar, state and national action plans, and the wonderful people like the Red Cross, Convoy of Hope, Cajun Navy, storm chasers, reporters, meteorologists, and others who drive straight into these scary areas to provide aid.
Writing about bad weather—really bad weather—will guarantee tension and conflict in your work. After all, our characters can’t always have a sunshine-filled day while sitting on the porch drinking lemonade and petting their dog (or sipping wine and cuddling with a loved one). After a while, even rainbows and unicorns become monotonous. Writers simply can’t forget to include the darker side of reality.
Beyond thunderstorms, I’ve used a variety of severe weather situations in my novels. Now, I’m wondering if this is because I dated a meteorologist for years, but I digress. Here are some examples of weather-related scenes in my work.
A tornado provided the outlet for a major plot twist in CHAOS AT COCONUTS. Before I wrote this novel, I wondered how I would achieve this particular shock and awe moment, and my fictional twister delivered the perfect platform.
I didn’t have to do much research since I live in Missouri where we have tornadoes annually. I grew up with tornado drills in school and have helped with cleanup as an adult. I viewed the aftermath of the EF5 tornado in Joplin where trees were stripped of bark and houses were flattened down to their foundations. A huge, brick hospital was even decimated. Yes, tornadic events are heart wrenching, but they can also provide many heartwarming scenes.
I created a deadly tropical storm at sea that allowed me to create tension and plot twists for my characters on Key Lime Island. I researched Coast Guard lingo, plus being married to a husband who has taken captain courses helped immensely. We boat often and it was easy for me to describe the water sloshing over the sides, darkened skies, lightning zigzagging, losing sight of land, the rocking, slippery boat, and more to create realistic scenes.
In closing, please know I’m not making light of this serious situation. I wish everyone the best outcome possible with Hurricane Florence. I pray no lives are lost and sincerely hope homes and businesses are spared. Please heed the warnings, everyone, and be safe. This event is not fiction.
Beth Carter won the RONE Award for THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS, was named Best Debut Author in 2015, and twice received a Raven Award Runner Up for CHAOS AT COCONUTS and SLEEPING WITH ELVIS in 2017 and 2018. Formerly a bank VP, the author much prefers afternoon writing at Starbucks to her stuffy 8 a.m. board meetings. She divides her time between her home state of Missouri and adopted state of Florida.