It was a dark and stormy night...
A frequently quoted rule of writing is that you should never start a story by talking about the weather. Rules are made to be broken, but there are usually better ways to kick off a tale besides noting the raindrops falling on the roof overhead or the wind howling at the windows.
Weather was a central fact of life back in caveman days, when a day-long rainstorm meant that you either got wet while you scavenged for food, or you went hungry. These days, we look out at snowstorms from our tight, warm houses, and we use cozy cars to scavenge for our food, so there's just not much drama to be had from talking about the weather. (Okay, some people gaze at snow through their windows. I live in Florida, where a snowstorm would afford plenty of drama, since it would be a sign of climatic Armageddon. Also, it would cause stupendous traffic disaster, since none of us know how to drive when atmospheric water freezes and drops to the ground. But I digress.)
When I was told that we were blogging about the weather this week, I tried to think of how I use weather in my own work. My first thought was that I write about the Gulf South, so the weather isn't news. It's always the same: hot and muggy, with a chance of thunderstorms. The long 99/99 summers (99 degrees Fahrenheit, 99% relative humidity) can work to my advantage, giving the action an overheated and sweaty feeling, but I risk trying your patience if I mention the fact that Faye is sweating on every everlovin' page. As with any telling detail, it's best to feather such descriptions into the action judiciously.
In Relics, I had a little fun with the weather by sending Faye to north Alabama, into the foothills of the Appalachians...in November. I did this because she spent much of Artifacts running for her live, but she did it on her own turf. For the followup book, I wanted to take her out of her comfort zone. So not only is she dealing with a region where the people don't want her there and wherethe hilly landscape and the very dirt are alien--not small things to an archaeologist--in Relics she is cold. For a native Floridian, to be cold is to know that the world has been knocked off its axis. For a novelist, knocking your protagonist's world off its axis is the very foundation of a good plot.
I had nearly finished musing on how little weather figured into my storytelling style, when I remembered the hurricanes. Duh. I guess when I think of the word "weather," I think of gentle rain and sun and clouds. When I think of hurricanes, I come up with the word "cataclysm." Artifacts ends with Faye hauling a wounded friend across her roof during the mother of all hurricanes. It even includes my personal favorite point-of-view character of any I've written (other than Faye and Joe, of course): Hurukan, the Mayan storm god. Hurukan understands that sometimes humans muck up the world so badly that it just needs to be wiped clean, and Hurukan is just the god to do it.
After the Category 5 monster in Artifacts, I figured I'd leave hurricanes alone as plot points, at least for a while. And I did. But four books later, I found myself setting Floodgates in New Orleans, post-Katrina, so hurricane-as-plot-point forced itself on me again. In the new book, Strangers, there was no way to talk about the founding of St. Augustine without mentioning the hurricanes encountered by the arriving Spanish in their frail wooden boats. And if I follow through with my plan to set Book 8 in the Florida Keys, there will be no way to ignore the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 that cut the Keys off from the mainland by wiping out the railroad, killing hundreds in the process.
Brutally hot, muggy, with occasional tempestuous disaster...these are the climatic facts of life when you live within the area influenced by the great Gulf of Mexico. These things are counterbalanced by the fact that you pretty much can't freeze to death here, and it's hard to starve when the growing season never really gets over, but they can't be ignored. Weather you like it or not...