The weather. Not something that would normally be considered paramount in a worldbuilding session. It’s a thing that, unless fundamental to your story (e.g. Stormlight Archives’ “Highstorms”), it is part of your patchwork of the world that enriches the world of your story.
However, if you think about your day-to-day life, you still decide a lot of your actions by it, even if it’s just “in the background”. If it rains, you take an umbrella. If it’s sunny and warm, you change your clothes. Thunderstorms, you might rush inside to take cover before the rain hits.
So how is it relevant for worldbuilding them? And how can you use it to your storytelling advantage?
Like Brandon Sanderson’s “Highstorms”, the weather (or lack of it) could affect your magic system. Maybe it relies on sunlight to work, or that the magic is more powerful when there are clouds. Perhaps you have weather mages, whose magic is tied to what the weather can and can’t do.
For me, I love the idea that the magic system can be affected by the weather. My WIP is set in a climate not akin to the tropics – dense jungles, heavy humidity and most of all regular thunderstorms especially during the rainy season. When I had the opportunity to visit Malaysia last year, the rainstorms were so immense and powerful, it blew me away. There was an overwhelming sense of feeling small as I took cover under the shopping centre overhang, whilst the rain began to tumble out of the sky whilst lighting snapped the sky in two above.
Linking your magic system to an element of the weather gives it a level of unpredictability which could create some really interesting conflict for your story – what happens, for example, if in the climax to your fight your mage couldn’t use their magic at all?
So if, like me, you like the idea of unpredictability in your magic systems, maybe linking it to a weather pattern might be the answer.
I’m going to do a separate “How To” post on Geography, but it is worth a mention here. Weather systems are deeply linked with the land and sea around them – climate change shows us that much. So while you’re building the physical map of the world, consider for a moment how it would impact your weather:
- High Mountains would create cold environments on top of them, but maybe a rain-soaked basin behind them.
- Low areas near the sea might be hit by sea storms or winds.
- Rivers that flow from mountains would in turn drive a whole ecosystem to themselves – how much rain falls in them could spring up deltas or mashlands. Less rain could leave arid riverbeds.
- Deserts create an area of heat, so how would that impact the surrounding areas?
Now, you don’t have to be a geography expert or weather expert to be able to answer these kinds of questions. Find an area on our Earth that’s similar in nature to your world, and research the weather systems and impact it has on the environment.
Plus, if you are struggling with “travel” scenes, or understanding the wider view of your world, using the weather to build your physical geography, and in turn, add points in your world that your characters could explore or talk about.
Now, as above, the weather could have a direct impact on your character’s thoughts and feelings – are they too hot? Too cold? Wet? Dry?
Think about your own opinions and how the weather would affect those – do you like sunny days? Rainy days? Cold days? Warm days? What would you feel if you had to walk for three hours on a glorious summer day? Now what would you feel if you had to do the same walk in the pouring rain? Quite different feelings, I would guess.
I for sure love walking on warm (but not too hot!) spring days. I hate the cold because it hurts my breathing. I really enjoyed the humidity of Asia because of how much easier it was to breathe, but it also took me a long time to get use to how much you sweat in that same heat.
All of these things give little clues as to how your characters are thinking and feeling. It’s not integral to the plot, but it helps to build a richer, more engaging world.
What’s the weather like on your world?
So, in your world, how have you created your weather system? Does it have a big impact on your plot? Or is it more in the background? Let me know in the comments!
Photo Credit: Photo by NOAA on Unsplash
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