Into the Fog

Another blanket of fog covered my little corner of the world yesterday.  I say another because this weather pattern has been frequent this winter.  As I embarked on my taxi rounds, I got to thinking about fog–in the novel sense.

I might be wrong when I say this, as I haven’t a shred of proof to back it up, but it seems to me that fog is the most used weather pattern in literature.  Sure the perfect storm might roll in or a blizzard may blow two almost love-birds into a cabin for a weekend.  But fog is universal.

It happens in California, London, New York and New Zealand.  It clouds up mountain tops, drifts across the roads, surrounds, engulfs, rolls in, wraps, settles, lifts, covers, swathes, shifts, hides, steals, seeps and slithers.  It performs all sorts of amazing feats that other weather doesn’t do. 

It is also synonomous with our emotions.  Which could possibly make it the most cliched weather pattern in fiction.  It’s an easy out and the perfect metaphor when things go awry.

Weather can set the tone, wreak havoc, create distractions and impede progress.  It can be the backdrop for an entire novel, or simply the ominous setting for a single chapter.  I’ve used it.  Not fog, but blizzards, tornadoes and thunder storms.  Cloudy days appear in my manuscripts and generally have some connection to my MC’s emotional state.

Agent Mary Kole discussed weather on her blog about a month back.  She stated (and I’m paraphrasing) that when people have nothing to talk about, they talk about the weather.  Since reading that, I’ve found it to be true.  And since I live in Minnesota and the weather has been interesting this past year, I have caught myself more often than not discussing the weather with acquaintances. 

What does this say about our manuscripts when they are littered with rain clouds and fog?  Are we treating our readers as acquaintances or best friends and confidants?

“Wow, some fog out there.”

“Yeah, I could barely see the mailbox when I drove right by it.”

“Took me fifteen minutes longer to get into town, it was so thick.”

“Worse than split pea soup.”

That’s boring in real life.  Reading it is torturous.  Yet it happens, because weather can be such a good barometer for the events in a book.  Over-used, however, and it loses its impact altogether.

How do you use weather in your writing?  Have your characters ever discussed it in an actual conversation?  Does fog play a part in any of your written works?  If so, was it used as setting, an incident that needed to be overcome or a metaphor for your MC’s feelings?

Which weather pattern do you find most frequently in the books you read?  Which do you like least and why?

16 responses to “Into the Fog

  1. Rain is the one I use most often. In the current ms, there’s a drought through the first 3/4s of the book and when it does come, it causes a flash flood with enormous consequences. The flood especially is echoed in the metaphorical emotional context of the novel. That said, if my characters discuss the weather they do it within the context of fear: “Please don’t rain, please don’t rain.” I would always have a strong tension underneathe any weather-related conversation for the reason you state. No tension and it’s boring, meaningless conversation.

    • Victoria,

      I’ve never written a drought before. In fact, the thought has never crossed my mind, but it can be so powerful on so many levels. Nice choice.

      Do you think it makes a difference where we live and what type of weather we write about? Or natural disasters in general?

      Thanks for sharing, everyone!

  2. I think strong storms of nature are interesting because they take us outside of the mundane. What’s better than a good thunderstorm? I love them and getting snowed in, which never happened once this year, and I have been guilty of including both in my novel, and fog, and how did you know my two protagonists were stranded in a cabin by a blizzard? Geez….

    I don’t mind reading about weather if it is done well. It can set a scene beautifully, adding imagery, like lightning bolts of passion. Who was it that said, “if the weather didn’t change once in a while 90% of people wouldn’t be able to start a conversation.”

    Sun shining here!!

    • Yvonne, rain, rain and more rain today. With a few snow flurries mixed it. Gotta love the weather.

      Like you, I’m a sucker for the snow storms and I have a thunder storm or two brewing in some of my manuscripts. The weather does such a nice job of providing external conflict while giving a great sense of setting.

      I like your quote about the weather and conversation. I wonder what we would have to resort to if weather was a taboo topic? “Sooooo, what’dya have for dinner last night?”

  3. Fog’s a good one but I prefer violent storms that act as “Threshold Guardians”. My current WIP has a violent thunderstorm blocking the way out of town, and then of course a hurricane prevents them from returning home.
    Don’t ride a metal horse in a thunderstorm.
    Don’t ride an airship in a hurricane.

    • LOL, Andrew. I’ll try to keep my impulse to ride metal horses during thunderstorms at bay. It might be difficult, but well worth heeding the warning!

      I am a sucker for snow storms myself. Probably because blizzards are what I know and they can do so much. I might have to fiddle with fog just for the sake of having written it!

  4. Sometimes I don’t like reading about snow during the Minnesota winter. I just don’t need the reminder! I’ve always liked reading about clear, star-filled nights and a full Moon.

    • Christina,

      I hear you on that. Sometimes the winter is far too long to extend it with a book! Also, I love the night sky from the boundary waters. It’s nice to get far enough away from city lights to actually see the stars in their entirety.

  5. I have to go back in and add allusions to weather as I tend to completely ignore it in first draft. My YA is in England, and I didn’t even mention fog in the draft – pretty sure that’s not allowed 🙂

  6. I like to use sunshine and light in general. It bounces off of things and makes certain things sparkle. Then it also gets in the character’s eyes and blinds her during a fight. ^_^

  7. There is much wind and rain in my current work in progress. And my next novel–which I’m going to write in April–will have a Very Important Snow Storm, modeled after one that happened in real life around here in 2008, and seemed very supernatural.

    • Michelle,

      I love snow storms–and rain. I can certainly do without the wind, though! I’m jealous that you already have your April NaNo idea. If I’m going to join you, I better get thinking!

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