Weather Thesaurus Entry: Rain

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).



The presence of rain affects light, causing a grey, washed out look. The sky will be a blanket of dark cloud overhead, and fat droplets will leave dime sized wet patches on dry sidewalks. As rain quickens, wet darts pelt skin, buildings, cars, plants, glass, trees and roads, and creates a glossy look on smooth surfaces. Leaves and grass shake as rain hits, and damp patches quickly spread to a uniform wetness. Water drops splash up from puddles in a patterned dance, rain slants against windows, blurring the glass and collects in streams in gutters and roadways. In populated areas, people will rush to find a dry place or huddle under an umbrella or store overhang. Rain will flatten hair, soak through clothing and drip off the chin. If wind is present, rain is angled and speeds the pace of the flow until sheets of it slash at the buildings, ground and trees, reducing visibility.


Rain is often accompanied by the smell of ozone (if lightning is present) and also cuts through any other local smells & pollution, leaving a fresh, crisp scent in the air.


Water, possibly an acrid aftertaste of pollution if near or in an urban area


Wet and cold go hand in hand, creating a clammy feeling of discomfort and heaviness as soaked clothing adheres to skin, hair hangs in wet slicks against the neck and forehead and water will drip into eyes and mouth. Body temperature drops, enducing shivering. Rain invades footwear and causes make up to run. Hard rain can be quite painful against exposed flesh, and may even bruise in extreme cases. People tend to hunch over as they run to get away from the rain, keeping the head down and using upturned collars for protection. On route to shelter, people will use anything close to hand to protect themselves from the driving force--a newspaper, purse, briefcase, or pull their shirt/coat up to cover their head. Tight clothing, once wet, will rub the skin and cause itchiness.


Rain can vary from a gentle plonking sound as it collides with foliage, earth and buildings, to a louder, more forceful drumming noise. The pitch of rain changes based on velocity and water droplet size. Glass muffles the sound of rain while metals, especially tin, can create a loud pinging or banging clamor, even to the point where it is difficult to hear anything else, including another person trying to speak. The harder rain falls, the louder rain becomes as it collides with surfaces. In wooded areas, the sound is similar to wind ruffling the leaves as foliage is shaken as millions of water droplets fall from the sky.



Unless following hot weather, rain triggers a flight response. To avoid the cold, pelting rain, people will hurry to find shelter to stay dry until the rain passes. If the weather has been very hot, then rain can bring about a sense of relief and release built up air pressure. In the greater setting of a book, rain can create a roadblock toward goals, bogging down character movement, force characters together who might not otherwise choose to be in the same space and offer an opportunity for reflection as a POV character waits for the storm to pass. Rain can also be an excellent counterpoint to internal pressure & stress felt by a POV character, symbolizing a tipping point where they are either broken by that pressure or they act to overcome it.


Depression, a heavy burden of responsibility, heavenly disfavor, cleansing, sadness, the life cycle

Possible Cliches:

Pairing the pain of losing a loved one with rain, having rain be a conduit to showing a morose/depressed character's inner emotional landscape, rain washing away sins of the soul, a feeling of 'drowning' in sorrow


Rain occurs as humidity reaches a breaking point, and happens most frequently during the months of Spring. Rain can last for minutes, hours or days depending on the size of the storm cell, and may also accompany thunder and lightning, sleet and hail. Before rain hits, the air can seem pressurized and weighted. Summer rain tends to be hard and driving, and of a shorter duration than Spring rains, which are steadier and can last for days, sometimes causing rivers to rise and flooding to occur.

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 tension. 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.


Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I actually just edited out a rain scene from my current piece. It was completely the cliched "I'm sad and now it's raining like the pain in my heart" scene.

Matthew MacNish said...

It's raining great writing advice in here.

Karen Lange said...

This is helpful! Thanks! :)

Kristen said...

This is so right on! My first ms had a lot wind, but no other weather patterns in it, and when people would read it they would say, "Why is it always windy? The poor kid is always getting blown around."
Now I'm more aware of weather and I especially love your point about how heat makes everyone a little easier to boil over. Bravo.

Kelly said...

Rain can convey so many emotions and setting depending on what kind of rain.
A light sprinkle could be refreshing. A downpour could ruin plans. A storm could be frightening.
Great entry!

M.P. McDonald said...

Wonderful post. I love how you broke it all down by the senses.

Julie Musil said...

Another great addition to an already great thesaurus. Thanks so much!

D.B. Smyth said...

SOOOO glad I read this! *opens wip and removes all cliche weather patterns* Somedays I'm such a noob!

Beth said...

This is a great post. The cliches are hard to avoid, but I love your suggestions!

tracikenworth said...

I used to love to dance in the rain when I was a kid. Brings back sweet memories the sound of the drops hitting the bucket on your head, and the splish-splash of the puddles that would send your mother into a raving fit when you returned(just kidding, my mother encouraged us to do so.).


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