In Missouri, the old saying goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it’ll change.” And that’s very true. Being centrally-located in the U.S., we get some doozies – anything from scorching hot summers to winters that bring storms with several inches – or feet – of snow.
A few weeks ago, we had an incredible storm that dropped three inches of ice on the ground before a foot of snow fell on top of it. Nice to dig your way out of, let me tell you. In the first days of sleet, it was amazing to watch nature turn inside out until all the faded colors were no more than a wisp of memory (I’m feeling a little purple today).
First, the sleet fell, steady, sometimes in sheets so thick you couldn’t see but a few feet in front of you. The few leaves left on the trees became weighted. They clung to their perches until, finally, the weight was too much and they fell to the ground with a sort of tinkling sound – ice hitting ice.
The raccoons that come to my deck every night to finish up the sunflower seeds the birds and squirrels didn’t get during the day ate like mad. They sheltered themselves as best as they could as they plowed through the food. (Yeah, yeah, I gave them some leftovers because they are babies.) I figured they knew something even worse was coming and they were storing up for energy.
They were right. Two days later, a foot of snow greet me when I woke. The snow was thick and so heavy my legs burned with the effort to move through it. And when I came back in the house, I forgot that snow leaves tiny puddles for stockinged feet to slip on. A few days later, my boots picked up salt from the plows and scattered the pebbles on my floor – and embedded some quite nicely in the blue carpet.
It occurred to me as I sat inside my nice warm hub that these were details so rich and plentiful I should write them down. Even though I’d seen scores of storms, those tiny details – like the tinkling of the leaves as they fell – would easily slip my overloaded brain. As I went through some of my old file folders, I discovered that even in high school, I had kept notes of fantastic lightning storms in my old hometown (which I’d forgotten about until I found them). No way could I remember – or even envision – the gripping detail of the vivid colors, the distant sound of thunder, the way the animals scattered to their homes and my cats hid under the bed, or the frightening fascination I had at that particular moment of this particular storm.
Sure, we all know what it’s like when it rains, or when it snows, or when the sun scorches us with its rays. But it’s about details – details that can add a vivid mesh of scene description that impacts a character or creates more tension in a story. (What if your character is a rookie cop deathly afraid of storms and his first night with a new partner his town gets a doozy?)
Don’t forget: Storms differ depending on geographic locations. Be certain to do the research. That sounds silly, I know, but I’ve read some stories that take place in Missouri where the weather descriptions cracked me up with their inaccuracies.