The mountains where I live are starting to fade. The last good spring rain was weeks ago, and while the hills haven’t yet grown brown and dry, they’re also not as bright and giddily green as they were at the beginning of the month. It changes the way I look at the landscape and reminds me that I do live in a desert of sorts.
It’s also part of why I know that the setting/weather can be an incredibly effective tool in writing. One that I’m usually really bad at using. Not so much in short stories (mine, at least) that take place over a shorter period of time, but when you get something novel-length, having the seasons or the climate change over the course of the story can add some awesome depth to the themes and conflict.
Think The Lion King and the way the Pridelands change. You might argue that it’s a bit heavy handed (not sure I could argue against that, per se) but it’s definitely effective. If I remember right, that particular example also works within the framework that used the state of the kingdom to reflect on its ruler; if the ruler was wicked or ill, the land itself would be sick and poor. Like I said: maybe a little heavy handed, but it certainly gets the point across.
All this is to say that I think I’m finally starting to understand what my high school English teachers were trying to say when they said that a good setting is like another character in the story. It’s got its own arc and it affects the story itself. And if you think about it, that not so far fetched. I dare any of you to tell me that you’ve never had things changed by the weather.