Weather Thesaurus Entry: Mist or Fog

WEATHER is an important element in any setting, providing sensory texture and contributing to the mood the writer wishes to create in a scene. With a deft touch, weather can enhance the character's emotional response to a specific location, it can add conflict, and it can also (lightly) foreshadow coming events.

However, caution must accompany this entry: the weather should not be used as a window into a character's soul. The weather can add invisible pressure for the character, it can layer the SCENE with symbolism, it can carefully hint at the internal landscape, but it must never OVERTLY TELL emotion. Such a heavy-handed approach results in weather cliches and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight:

Hazy whiteness & curls of smoky air currents that obscure surroundings and make distances difficult to fathom. Fog is denser than mist, and visibility is reduced. Mutes light and color, and can hide movement.

Smell:

Damp, picks up the scent of brine and algae near water sources, earthy scents (soil, pine, greenery) in natural areas and urban scents in cities (oil/gasoline, pollutants, refuse, wet cardboard, oil & food smells from fast food chains, etc)

Taste:

No taste, but breath would be moist in nature. It may carry a briny tang if near a water source.

Sound:

No sound in itself, but in natural environments, animals would be less likely to make movement/noise for fear of predators they could not see, causing an 'unnatural quiet'. A lack of a breeze contributes to this, causing sound to not carry or seem muffled.

Touch:

A cold, dewy sensation against the skin. With little to no air movement, the moist air will cling to hair and clothing, weighing both down and casing water droplets to form during prolonged exposure. If the weather is cold enough, frost may also form.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: By nature, mist and fog obscures and hides. It causes an atmosphere of mystery and uncertainty, and if danger (real or perceived) is present, it can ratchet up fear. Characters rely on sight more so than anything else, so the visibility restrictions, combined with the unpleasant feeling of cold and damp, can easily play on emotions. Imagination and adrenaline runs high. Characters tend to be on guard and alert to all forms of sensory input when mist or fog is present.

Symbolism: Doom, danger, mystery, confusion, a knowledge veil that the character must break through to achieve their goals, unseen opposing forces, uncertainly, a challenge ahead

Possible Cliches: Mist and fog used in dreams to imply repressed memory or knowledge, using it in conjunction with locations that are magnets for scary/paranormal (IE: graveyards, haunted houses, etc.)

OTHER: Mist forms at night/early morning when the temperature is low and the air is filled with moisture and is burned off by sun and heat. Most common near water sources (harbors, rivers, lakes), you can usually see over the top of mist or fog at a distance as it is a cloud that forms along the ground.

Don't be afraid to use the weather to add contrast. Unusual pairings, especially when drawing attention to the Character's emotions, is a powerful trigger for conflict. Consider how the bleak mood of a character is even more noticeable as morning sunlight dances across the crystals of fresh snow on the walk to work. Or how the feeling of betrayal is so much more poignant on a hot summer day. Likewise, success or joy can be hampered by a cutting wind or drizzling sleet, foreshadowing conflict to come.

19 comments:

Anne E. Johnson said...

Thanks for this post. You make an important point. I'd call what you're describing "physical atmosphere," and it does make a huge difference to acknowledge it in a scene. I find that, besides the foreshadowing you mention, a particular atmosphere can be a great motivator for a character's behavior. Who isn't a bit grouchier when it's hot and humid?
http://bit.ly/hS0pEA

Matthew MacNish said...

I absolutely love what fog does to sound. The way you can hear a whisper from a hundred yards away as if it were right next to you, and then the next moment you can't hear your own breath.

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks guys! Whoops, guess I slotted this a day early in one of my pre-cofffee fogs, so I guess that's appropriate, considering the topic! LOL

April said...

As always, this is a great post. I could spend all day on your blog and still have so much to learn. I've never really thought about weather beyond...setting. Foreshadowing and the actual physicality of it...I can recognize it when I read other's writing, but I don't think about putting it into my own so much.

I'm going to have to change that outlook.

Jenna said...

So many people think weather is a cheap way to set a scene. If it's used correctly, it works pretty stinkin' well, though. Awesome post.

And speaking of weather, I wish it would stop raining...*Glares at sky.*

Julie Musil said...

Girls, I must tell you...I've been revising these past few weeks, and when I needed to show emotion a different way, I came here. Truly, you guys are amazing. Thanks for all these amazing posts.

L.J. Boldyrev said...

Such an excellent post! Thanks, girls!

Bish Denham said...

We actually had a little fog yesterday morning, a nice momentary respite from the dry.

EEV said...

This entry was very timely! I'll be using it soon, thanks!

P.S. If a book of mine ever see the light of the day, look for acknowledges there :)

- EEV

Jeff King said...

Once again I see what my settings are lacking... a good snow storm, or the gloom of the fog, or the chill of an autumn breeze.

Nice work.

Trisha said...

I love cold weather, rain, etc. So I am a big mist/fog fan :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

You guys are awesome. Loved the post. I seldom add the weather, just a mention of a drizzle or cold winds or a sunny day. Your post is tempting me to go more into weather details.

Jettica said...

A wonderful post. Very in depth and useful.

With mist and fog there is the opportunity to be very cliched. But when used properly it can bring about an amazing atmosphere.

Becca Puglisi said...

I'm loving this thesaurus. Nicely done, Angela.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Awesome job as always. We frequently get early morning fog from the Bow river since it's not far from my house. It no longer has that cliched eerie feeling. ;)

Karen Lange said...

This is timely, thanks! It also reflects some of our local weather lately. :P
Happy weekend,
Karen

tracikenworth said...

I love these settings. It reminds me of Stephen King's "The Mist," or the fog movies. Right up my storylines...

Laura Pauling said...

I love me some creepy fog in a book! Even if it's a bit too direct. :) Awesome, guys!

Iris Zevlac said...

yay! This is exaclty what I needed right now!

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