Friday, August 27th, 2010

Writing Prompt – Weather, the Number 1 News Story Daily

Lightning Bolt and TwisterWhen I was a freshman journalism major, the teacher asked what I thought was a trick question:

What’s the number-one news story today ?

(It was a big deal to get this question right: the professor worked at a large radio station and always had lots of swag to give away. The person who responded correctly would receive a coffee mug.)

I don’t remember the various answers that were called out. But I do remember the hunky guy across the aisle asking if it were about rain.

He almost got the mug.

The answer: the weather.

Weather is all the rage. It’s the first thing people want to know when they get up in the morning. It’s what they wait for on the evening news each night. Some folks get email alerts or install browser plugins so that they’ll always know what to expect. It’s imperative to know whether or not to carry an umbrella tomorrow, or if they should stay in for lunch. Vacations are planned around it.

Sunset on the Beach with Kids Playing
(I myself have driven as many as six hours in pursuit of sunshine.)

We no longer think of weather as a gift (or scourge) of the gods, yet the elements are still credited with significance in our lives. On the eve of my wedding, during the rehearsal and dinner afterward, the skies opened up and rain came down so hard and fast that the streets of Baltimore were flooded. Water rose atop the curbs and gushed over the sidewalks.

Worried. I was worried about the morning. Okay, I was a little excited about the storm, I admit, but I certainly didn’t want a torrential downpour on the day of my wedding. What would that signify? I thought. Who wants to begin a life of marital bliss with that kind of omen?

Here’s Your Prompt: Think of a time when the weather — or the elements in general — played a major role in your life. You don’t have to choose a significant event, like a wedding, but any situation in which the weather was pivotal.

Be creative. Discard the first three events that come to mind (I’ll bet they’ll be similar to my own weak example: it rained when I was looking for sunshine). Maybe you got snowed in at a friend’s house. What happened? Maybe February has been 27 days of bleak, watery daylight and sleet, but the 28th dawned bright and clear and seventy-two degrees. How did you take advantage of it? Maybe that flash-flood washed away the pick-up, but it saved the crops.

If you’ve never been affected in your life (really?) by the weather, make something up:

  • Pretend you’re in high school serving detention with someone you despise and a freak storm blows the electricity. The teacher goes off to find some flashlights and you’re stuck with that person, in the dark, and it’s getting stuffy in the classroom without any airflow. Write the conversation you might have.
  • Pretend it’s October and you’re walking outside in a crisp autumn night. Is there a moon in the sky, or cloud cover? What do you hear and smell? Are leaves burning? Does the wind rustle the leaves? Are you scared? Or, does the cool air invigorate you? What goes through your mind as you experience the elements?
  • It’s snowing: tiny flurries spiraling down out of the sky, blanketing the ground and lessening visibility. Three feet or more has been predicted, and you can’t help yourself, you’re as giddy as a kid. With that kind of weather, you know that secondary roads will be blocked: you won’t have to go to work. But you wake up in the morning and there’s only a dusting. You’re groggy and disappointed, and you have to head off to work. Write all about it.
  • Etc.

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