PROMPT: Write About Weather as an Obstacle to Getting Home

The weather looms large in the plots of many of the greatest stories. In War and Peace, the ice and snow challenge all the characters and set the mood. In The Odyssey, weather seems to be fully under control when a friendly god puts all the winds into a sack and gives them to Odysseus so that he can use just the one that will take his ship home—but it doesn’t turn out to be that simple! And in the epic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, all the characters’ lives are turned upside down by a catastrophic hurricane.

Can you use the weather to throw up major challenges for a character or set of characters? Integrate this prompt into the short story prompt to create a thrilling scene, use it as a stand-alone, or make it the opening scene to a longer story, maybe even a novel!

Quotes to inspire you:

“It was one of those March nights when winter seems to wish to resume its sway and scatters its last snows and storms with desperate fury,” – Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.

“They opened the bag and the winds all burst out. Suddenly the storm caught them away and swept them over the water weeping, away from their own country.” – Homer, The Odyssey (Aeolus, god of the winds, had given Odysseus the bag, but his crew thought he was hiding gold in it and opened it.)

“The wind came back with triple fury and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.” – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Elmore Leonard (author of Get Shorty) wrote in The Guardian’s 19 Feb, 2010 Rules for Writers, “Never open a book with the weather.” We might add, never say never. It worked for Tolstoy, Homer, and Hurston. Give it a try! (Leonard qualified his rule by adding, “if it’s only to create atmosphere.”)

Fun fact: Although there’s a famous novel called Storm, there is, so far, no novel in print in English that is simply named Weather. Want to write it?

Download the PDF for a handout version of this prompt that also has a thumbnail gallery of weather-related images to inspire the imagination.