You’d think deserts would have predictable weather patterns: Deathly hot, Hot, and Not as hot. But here in the High Desert of California, we enjoy (or suffer) unpredictable weather patterns. The desert, for us, is not so much a lack of weather. It’s weather at the extremes. True, we don’t get much rain. But the rain we get likes to come all at once, usually in the span of an hour. No lie, I’ve seen rain falling up. A couple years ago we had a tornado touch down about twenty miles from our home. I’ve seen fifty miles worth of road completely iced over. I’ve seen hail coming so hard and so fast, it punctured holes in the leaves of our rose bushes. Heat so bad our air conditioner couldn’t bring it under 90 degrees. Cold so extreme my face has numbed taking out the garbage.
To be fair, I’ve seen plenty of beautiful weather as well. Clear days without the whisper of a cloud. Cobalt blue skies reaching a hundred miles in any direction. Mild dry temperatures. Gentle breezes that beacon waves of butterflies.
We have it all in the desert.
How much of it makes it into our fiction? Do your characters live inside a vacuum? A biosphere? Weather affects us, changes us, makes us feel. In the same way, our characters should be influenced by their environments. Do the love the rain? Hate it? Do they worry about tornados or hurricanes?
As you write, look for opportunities for weather to make a difference in your novel, your story, or even the scene you’re currently working on. How might rain ruin a romantic date? How might wind set the stage for a kite flying contest? When in doubt, change the weather suddenly, but avoid using weather only to “set the mood.” It’s great for that, but rain is more than just ominous. It’s also beautiful and tragic. Snow is now always romantic, it’s also dangerous. Sunny days on the beach can be great, so long as no one gets burned.
Instead of staying inside avoiding weather, get out and experience it. Then let your senses translate it to your fiction.