THE BLOG
04/07/2014 12:15 pm ET Updated Jun 07, 2014

Much Depends Upon the Weather

Snoopy sits on top of his doghouse, his back to a typewriter. Eyes closed, he concentrates, determined to write a world-famous novel. To begin, he must compose a perfect first sentence. It must have conflict and action. Its layers of complexities must entice readers to wonder, to marvel, and to read on. The sentence must be memorable; it must be quoted through the ages.

Snoopy faces the typewriter and types one word. He gets up and paces the roof with his front paws behind his back. Another word comes to him. He types it, then paces again as he digs deep into his doggy mind for the next word. He stops, paw to chin, pondering.

Oh, the pressure, the agony. Snoopy, though, is tireless. He types two more words. There's a familiar ring to the phrase. No matter. Snoopy, beagle author extraordinaire, will make it his own. He finishes the sentence.

It was a dark and stormy night.

A cliché? You bet. It's been ridiculed by critics and comedians since 1830 when Mr. Bulwer Lytton began his novel, Paul Clifford, with the sentence. But I have to hand it to Mr. Bulwer Lytton and to Snoopy. They understood the importance of weather in storytelling. Weather sets the mood and reveals a story's location and time of year. Weather impacts characters' behaviors and decisions. A rare snowstorm closes roads in Alabama and a character misses a long-awaited rendezvous with a lover. It rains one day too many in Seattle, and a character walks off his job and buys a ticket to Mexico. Or, as it happens in my novel, The Promise, a historic hurricane hits Galveston, Texas. Lives are lost, homes destroyed, and survivors must somehow put one foot before the other.

Much depends upon the weather. See what these eleven writers say about it.

There's always a period of curious fear between the first sweet-smelling breeze and the time when the rain comes cracking down. - Don Delillo

In the midst of thunder, lightning, and storm, many tremendous deeds have been committed; men, self-possessed before, have given a sudden loose to passions they could no longer control. - Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge

The wind shows us how close to the edge we are. - Joan Didion

[Fall] hurries you along as you walk the roads, crunching the leaves that have fallen in mad and variegated drifts. The wind makes you ache in some place that is deeper than your bones. It may be that it touches something old in the human soul, a chord of race memory that says Migrate or die--migrate or die. - Stephen King, Salem's Lot

Winter is not a season, it's an occupation. - Sinclair Lewis

I was just thinking, if it is really religion with these nudist colonies, they sure must turn atheists in the wintertime. - Will Rogers

Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. - Doug Larson, columnist

[April] hath put a spirit of youth in everything. - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world. - Ada Louise Huxtable

A man says a lot of things in summer he doesn't mean in winter. - Patricia Briggs, Dragon Blood

Pray don't talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest