Maybe you should never open a book with the weather, but don’t ignore it either

Should you really never open a book with the weather?

Maybe, but weather and seasons are important elements of a novel.

‘Never open a book with the weather’ is number one rule of writing according to the celebrated American crime writer, Elmore Leonard, who published his Ten Rules of Writing in 2010. But when he said that, he didn’t mean ignore the weather all together.

The rule goes on to explain:

“If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.”

Weather may not make a good opening according to Leonard, but seasons and seasonal changes can be an integral and enriching element of a novel. When I’m working with new writers I notice this is often something they overlook. Their scenes are set in a kind of timeless, weatherless place, which is really a missed opportunity.

If you think about key times in your life, you will probably have a sense of the season. Was it the height of a lazy summer, the depths of a bitter winter, the wonderful wildness of spring or the bittersweet beauty of autumn?

Weather and seasons have a profound influence on our daily lives, and they do on your characters’ lives too.

So when you are plotting out your story, don’t forget to consider the weather and seasonal changes.

When it comes to immersing your readers in the lives of your characters, weather is as important as place.

Photo of bare branches against a gloomy sky

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Lu Sexton

Hello, I’m Lu Sexton. I’m an editor and writing coach. I’ve been working with writers like you since 2009 and I love it. My mission is to help you bring out the best in your writing and get you one step closer to being published.

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