Writer's Tool Box

Return of the VORTEX: Make all your characters work for you!

The Basics never change!

Who? What? Where? When? Why? And how? The writer’s life, more than most, orbits these six mysteries. Chief among them is who. Characters are the backbone of storytelling. Somebody must want something, fight for something, and need it badly enough— no whims— for readers to engage. The reader himself is a character, bringing his or her experiences to the story world to interact on the stage that we writer’s set. A stage peopled with a supporting cast.


Today’s headline on Fox—RETURN OF THE VORTEX: ‘Brutal’ arctic surge to send temperatures plunging, bring ‘life threatening’ cold snap—is certainly an attention getter.

The Polar VORTEX looks like the Blob. Either that or Sherwin Williams paint ready to smother us all beneath its frigid snowy blueness–RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

The line makes the weather out to be a character of sorts. A force to be feared, battled, a significant something that will bring death if not properly engaged. That’s motivation. That’s the why that gets characters up and running and readers turning pages.

Drought is the villain in this non-fiction.

But weather can be a villain. It can be a silent, facilitating friend. It can take the place of a lover when a soft breeze fills the lonely void, soothing the burn of the sun with the gentlest caress. However you’d like to view it, the weather is something to which every reader can relate. And more often than not engage with when writers use this oft forgotten cast member to add drama, intrigue, and catharsis.

Award winning novelist and writing coach, K.M. Weiland is another firm believer that weather is a writer’s friend. Not boring description to be skipped.

So why not give weather the attention it deserves? Why not let the weather work for you. You can control it in your novel after all.

The following clip intended for children–a venue I love because these kind of videos break things way down–gives an examples of extreme weather and what it can do.

My list of potential extreme villains and/or facilitating friends includes the following:

  1. Flash flood
  2. Blizzard (A best friend if the hero/heroine end up snowed in together. With food of course! Otherwise it could turn into a horror story.)
  3. Heat wave (Cars do break down, people. Been there. Done that. I have no love loss for the Mojave or oasis gas stations that gouge women with heat stroking cats in transit.)
  4. Tornado (Two greeted the family and I when we caravanned to Florida back in ’03. One from the Atlantic, another from the Gulf. My first taste of southern hospitality.)
  5. Hurricane (My husband’s recollections of his time spent in Japan is absolutely book worthy.)
  6. Hail (Colorado lovelies–not.)
  7. The dreaded Derecho (Humid as hell with lightning striking like a mad dog.)
  8. Dystopian drought
  9. Gray days (The kind that grate on like a nagging in-law.)
  10. Brilliant blue skies (A great contrast to a psychological thriller or heaped up saccharine for a depressed protagonist. Blue skies don’t always translate to happy.)

You get the idea? I know you do. We’re writers. Creative people. It’s just nice sometimes to get permission to do what instinct insists upon. So what’s your weather go to. I’d love to add it to the list. Now stay warm–THE VORTEX COMMETH–and…

Write on!


4 thoughts on “Return of the VORTEX: Make all your characters work for you!”

  1. My granddaddy always used to say: “We’re going to have weather, whether you like it or not.” And yes, it does have an effect on all of us!! Personally, rain is the worst for me, and this has certainly been the year for it. I see water ponding where I’ve never see it lay before. Crazy! And lastly, weather often is the determining factor on how much time I have to write. Snow days when I’m off work. Rainy days when I stay home. Sunshiny days when I might forego writing to be outside. Yep, weather is a barometer for all types of things in our lives – personal, professional, and fictional!! Write on!


    1. Your granddaddy knew the way of it, Isabelle Grace. I hear you about the “ponding” effect.. I have a frozen one in my backyard. A permanent fixture with the freezing temps. Brrr. That’s one reason I like exercising control over it in my books. Why not? That’s the only opportunity for that to ever happen. And readers can absolutely relate to having to put on the layers just to get the mail and/or do nothing because it’s too hot to move. Thanks for stopping by ;^)


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