Setting for building tension, or what do you find to be creepy weather?

In the interest of good literature, not necessarily crime, What kind of weather, or setting do you find to be particularly creepy or more to the point, uncomfortable for your imagination and therefore, adding tension to whatever is going on in the story?

With hurricane Ike coming through (we have his tail end), When I got up this morning there was this weird light shining up the road, only on the road, like a car was stopped and just had its headlights focused on that side.
There was no car, it was dark on the side of my house and in the woods just beyond the light. It was the weirdest thing I think I've ever seen.

I did go check to see if a car wrecked at the corner. Imagination is a powerful thing! Thats how I know there wasn't one.


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Be careful with weather. Elmore Leonard's First Rule of Writing:
1. Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

I take all rules with a grain of salt, but I've seen this one proven in otherwise successful works too often to ignore it. A character can react to the weather, complain about it, or be affected by it; be careful of taking much time to describe the weather to set the mood, unless you're using the weather as a character.
I'm all for ignoring Leonard's rules -- or any rules. Weather is a part of action and setting. It may also add atmosphere and thereby support plot, character, and theme. I'm not at all sure that I would ever see weather as a character.

We should note, though, that a number of mysteries are written practically exclusisely for plot and action. In those cases, weather really has no business.
Elmore Leonard's Rules are useless. He undermines them by saying, don't do this--unless you can get away with it. Duh.
It was a dark and stormy night.   Darn, guess I need to figure out a new opening.
That introductory paragraph has received undeserved attention (including a reward for the silliest imitation) for being poorly written. It isn't.
Hey now, that's some lean prose. It's clear and to the point, no unnecessary words.
To answer your question, Deidre, if I was going to go for a creepy mood, I would make it as quiet as possible. There's nothing more unsettling than silence. Maybe a puff of wind to break the tension before the silence builds it back up again.
I agree with Elmore Leonard. If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to hear it, then who gives a shit? Weather is only important in how it affects the character. Otherwise, it's boring and invites skimage.
It all comes down to personal preferences, I guess. I find characters talking to each other in a vacuum rather boring. But that's just me.
I find characters talking to each other in a vacuum rather boring.

I agree. Dialogue should move the scene forward and illuminate character. If not, then it doesn't belong.

If your characters are trying to talk in the middle of a sand storm in Iraq, then of course they're going to be affected by the weather. I would try to show the characters' reactions, though, rather than just tell the reader what the weather is doing.
Hi Deirdre!
Let's see--I suppose darkness can be pretty creepy and tense.
A character in their own home at night, and the lights go out.
Strange sounds from the basement--did someone break in?
Darkness frightens me more than storms.
Of course a really good gale like we have here in England can be extremely scary sometimes, the wind howling through the chimney--doors rattling, houses settling. wood creaking, all pretty atmospheric and inspiring!
Anything moody can be scary--because the mind and the eyes play tricks sometimes and what with our imaginations we can really be frightened.
Ken Follett used the bleakness of Storm Island (a fictional island off the Scottish coast) to great effect in Eye of the Needle.
And it wasn't in any way the trite "dark and stormy night." It was used purely in the context of moving the plot along. i.e. the Nazi spy was shipwrecked because of the storm, with information about the D-Day landings (and stuck there).
Dear Deirde:
I do believe that weather can be a dramatic influence on writing. It can either add to the tension, or be the tension.
Fog... the calm before the storm... the dark shadows that can't be seen through... and many other can be very helpful in building tension in any writing, espicaly paranormal.


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