How to Describe a Storm in Writing
Whether they're ruthless tornadoes or torrential hurricanes, storms can add atmosphere and conflict to a personal narrative or story. The use of vivid description is a crucial tool for bringing these weather phenomena to life on paper and moving your plot forward. Using figurative language and active verbs can help you place readers right in the middle of the rain, wind and thunder.
Mighty Metaphors and Storm Similes
A simile is a type of description that makes an explicit comparison between two things using the words "like" or "as." A metaphor, by contrast, is a direct comparison that does not use these words. You can use these devices to create surprising descriptions of your storm. If you're describing a hailstorm, for example, you might use a simile to write, "The hailstones clattered to the ground like marbles spilled from a box." To use a metaphor, you might write, "An avalanche of hailstones fell from the sky."
The Sound of Storms
In real life, the sounds of nature are often key indicators of approaching storms. You can bring these sound effects to your descriptions by using onomatopoeia, a device where words mimic the sounds of their meaning. For example, if a thunderstorm figures prominently in your story, the thunder could "rumble" or "boom," rain could "patter" against the windows" and wind could "rush" across a field. Try making a list of all the sounds the storm in your narrative might involve and brainstorm onomatopoeic words to describe them.
The Character of Storms
If a storm is central to your story's conflict, you might consider having the weather literally take on a life of its own. Personification occurs when a writer gives human characteristics, such as actions and emotions, to an inanimate object. If your characters are trapped in open water during a hurricane, you might write, "The angry waves smacked against the side of the boat." Although water can't feel anger, the description of the waves as "angry" adds emotional texture and characterization to the storm.
Because bad weather can often get out of control, describing a storm is not the time to skimp on verb usage. Weak verbs, such as "was" or "were," drain your descriptions of energy rather than infuse them with detail. Using specific, active verbs for the storm's motion gives readers a more detailed image of the story's events. For example, the sentence, "The dark sky was lit up by lightning," is a good start, but revising it to include an active verb can make the description even more forceful: "Lightning flashed across the sky."
Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.