Weather Thesaurus Entry: Sunset

WEATHER and PHENOMENON are important elements 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).



As the sun lowers beyond the horizon, the color spectrum of the sky changes to orange, pink and red hues. Clouds, dust or airborne particles appear back lit with vibrant colors, which casts the same color  filter on anything reflective (water, shiny leaves, glass, etc).  Shadows lengthen during sunset, increasing the contrast between the bright sunlight fading in the sky and non-reflective or absorbing surfaces (hills, mountains, trees, buildings, etc) creating a silhouette effect.

Smell: No smell is directly associated with sunset, however as the temperature cools, the lack of exposure to sunlight will 'dampen' the strength of certain smells (day-blooming flowers, pollution, garbage bins, soil, grass, etc). Night-blooming flowers, if present, will release their scent into the air.

Taste: N/A

Touch: The light from a sunset will warm the skin, but it is a fading warmth, creating an interesting opposition effect, as sunset by sight alone is often compared to fire.

Sound: As night approaches, bird activity lessens, and sounds from bees and insects becomes almost non-existent, creating a sound void.


Mood: Sunset is almost synonymous with endings in writing. Sunset is the waning of the day, and a time where characters slow their activity and reflect upon recent events. Using sunset in a setting can create a feeling of time running out, of actions nearing completion and signal the 'letting go' of emotions for the time being.

Symbolism: Growing older; transitions; death; impending doom; earth cycles; letting go; endings

Possible Cliches: Comparing sunset to fire or a burning sky; a reference term for late-in-life years; riding into the sunset; watching a sunset as a romantic catalyst

OTHER: Sunset times and length varies with season and location.

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.


Matthew MacNish said...

I wonder how many times a sunset has been compared to fire and/or blood. I'm not going to pretend I've never done it.

Angela Ackerman said...

I was thinking this as I wrote the entry. It's tough, because let's face it--a sunset really resembles these things. But then that's always been our challenge--to find a fresh edge to tired description. :)


Heather said...

I like that, "must not overtly tell", great point! There is a lot of temptation to do that and it's a good reminder. Love this post, it just makes me sigh and relax. Sunsets are the best!

Carrie Butler said...

Welcome back, Angela! :) I love the imagery of a sunset, even when it's as subtle as bathing the characters in orange hues.

Becca Puglisi said...

Those cliches are spot-on. So glad you're back!

LynNerd said...

Wow, I love this post. Extremely insightful. Thanks. And thank you for visiting my blog and leaving your comment.

tracikenworth said...

What a pretty picture. I love sunsets and they often play a big part in my work (since I write scary things) in order to balance the dark with the light, or the ugly with the beautiful.

Bish Denham said...

I love a sunset. Nice job Angela.

In some places, like the Caribbean, with the advent of sunset, certain insects and animals wake up and sing throughout the night.

Talli Roland said...

Beautiful photo - I love sunsets! I haven't seen a really stunning one for a while.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss angela! missed you! i love the weather posts. just yesterday with my wip i used one you did on wind and the wind helped my mc find something he was looking for in a real strange way. sunsets are soooo pretty. i didnt use one in a story yet.
...hugs from lenny

Shannon said...

Love this post. You need a writer's hotline! <3

Welcome back!

Julie Musil said...

You captured this so well. We live out in the boonies, and watching the sun set behind our western mountains is one of my favorite things to do.

Karen Lange said...

At the risk of sounding redundant - good stuff! Thanks, as always. :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I love this! I've been writing about sunsets in my WIP. It's amazing and scary how many cliches there are regarding sunsets. Great photo, too.

Kari Marie said...

You brought up some important points. I'm working on my revision right now and I completely ignored the weather entirely and there were several scenes that could use some enhancement in that department. I'll take your tips to heart.

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. Sunsets are such a great draw as a setting element. I'm glad this one helps!