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Using seasons in writing [STORY SETTING TIPS]

When we talk about story settings, seasons are often underused. Even if you live somewhere like me where you get to experience all four of them, you might still need tips for using seasons in writing. If so, keep reading!


Story setting can almost be like a character by itself, but our environment is one of those things that we kind of tend to take for granted. I personally am very familiar with snow which is why I would probably have to take a moment or two to really think how to write about it in a way that would make a cold winter tangible to someone who hasn’t experienced it the same way as I have.

Another possible problem with writing seasons is that if you’re writing an entire novel, you most likely end up writing parts of it during a season that is different from the story. I can tell you from personal experience that writing about a heatwave can get tricky in the middle of January. That’s why this post also includes tips for getting in the mood for writing the correct season.

Related reading: Quick tips for describing places

General tips for using seasons in writing

Something crucial to remember about writing seasons is that you need to take into consideration WHERE your story takes place. Winter in Eastern Finland is completely different than in Middle East, and a heatwave in Adelaide will be a totally different experience than a heatwave in Aberdeen. And speaking of Adelaide, if you’re writing a story that takes place in the opposite hemisphere, don’t forget that seasons are opposite as well.

If your story takes place in an imaginary world, seasons and environment are something you really need to think about when doing your worldbuilding. How widely you need to think about them depends on how wide your setting is. Seasons and weather generally aren’t the same all over the planet.

Also, not only will different seasons feel different around the world, but people also have different attitudes about them. Make sure you remember this when writing about people who live far away from your own natural habitat.

For example, Finnish and British people will go absolutely crazy as soon as it gets even a little bit warm in spring and they’ll eat outside and hang out in shorts in a weather that would drive a Californian to hibernation. A person who’s used to getting really cold weather every year probably won’t be caught completely off guard when it happens, unlike someone who lives in a normally warm temperature.

Day length in different seasons

The length of the day is also something that varies in different locations in different seasons. I don’t even live that far up north in my country, but I can tell you it’s very dark during winter where I live. As in, about four hours of daylight during the day kind of dark, and the sun doesn’t go very high to begin with so it might not feel like much of daylight at all. Then the summer is completely different and it doesn’t get dark at all unless we’ve got extremely dark clouds and it’s raining.

Interestingly, if you do live closer to one of the poles like I do, it might be surprising how fast the night falls closer to the equator because the sun sets in a different angle. So if your story takes place in a different part of the world than what you’re used to, make sure your local readers aren’t going to be like “hmm, that doesn’t happen”.

Is the day length something you have to include in your story? Absolutely not. But if you do, you might want to make sure it makes sense.

Should you describe the weather in your story?

Should you describe the weather in your writing?

Weather can be an important part of setting, but it isn’t necessary to give the weather report for every day that you’re writing about. You certainly also don’t need to know every single detail about the local weather in your story’s environment. Knowing what the average weather is like is often plenty enough, though if you’re planning to include a hurricane in your story, also make sure that they actually occur in the area.

If your story takes place in the past and you’d like to include actual weather in your story, you can always google something like “weather in the UK in 1993”. I did this recently and I found out it was uncharacteristically cold in November, which I’ll be using in the story that I’m writing.

Weather is great for bringing complications to your story, which is why I’ve included some ideas for deepening conflicts in every season.

My latest book takes place in spring and summer, and one of the conflicts is brought on by an unusual heatwave that causes the characters to argue with each other in a way that they normally wouldn’t. The heatwave is followed by torrential rains that lead to reconciliation between the characters as well as to a cat bite that induces loving feelings between two of the characters.

So if you are ever stuck in wondering how might you complicate things for your story’s characters, don’t forget to think about what the weather might do. Different weather can also have different symbolism, and you might choose to use that symbolism (Crying in the rain, anyone?) or play against it.

Whatever weather you happen to be writing about, don’t forget to include sensory details instead of just saying “it was cold”. I’ve included tips for “showing, not telling” for each season, so check them out to learn how to really write weather effectively.

Writing about WINTER

Tips for writing winter and snow in your story

As with any season, winters can be very different depending on where you’re located, but let’s assume that we’re talking about a season that is significantly colder than other times of the year, okay?

When you’re writing about winter, you don’t want to say “it was cold” and just leave it at that. What does the cold FEEL LIKE to your characters? How can you show that it’s cold? Of course, there’s shivering, but you can also have stiff fingers and painful toes. At some point your thighs might just go numb. Being outside in the cold, even if you wear enough clothes, can make your face red and your nose run. At worst, you could lose limbs or even die.

Wearing glasses can, strangely enough, make your face feel even colder, and I can tell you I was once riding our cargo bike uphill when it was -23C (that’s -9.4F) and my glasses got very fogged up from the effort – and then they froze over. I had to thaw them before I could continue because I couldn’t see anything. I love living in Finland. Feel free to steal this little story for your own novel.

What should your characters wear in winter?

Something I see on TV a lot that baffles me is people from temperate climates going somewhere really cold and they stand there with their coats open and their scarves barely wrapped around their necks. Of course it’s heckin’ freezing, you’re not even properly dressed!

If your story takes place somewhere that it’s normal to get cold every year, your characters should have appropriate clothing for the season unless you’re making a point that they’re a total doofus. Naturally you don’t need to describe every piece of clothing they’re wearing, but writing something like “Just in case, she put on her favourite yellow knitted jumper under her winter coat before heading out” can convey that it is, indeed, pretty nippy out there.

With stories that don’t take place in modern times, your characters would likely wear furs or something made out of thick wool in winter. Poorer people would have to settle for wearing multiple layers of thinner materials.

Writing about winter for your story setting - tips by Protagonist Crafts

What does snow look and feel like?

Okay, genius, you’re probably telling me now that show is white. Well done. Technically you are right, and we’re not even touching “yellow snow” here, but regretfully wet snow on the roads tends to take a more grey form rather than white. It can also get really mucky, so even if it falls white, the ground might be coated by something else entirely.

Do you want to build a snowman? Something that people who experience snow only periodically might not know is that snow isn’t always the same and you definitely can’t make snowmans snowmen throughout the entire winter. What snow needs to be able to form snowballs, big or small, is moisture, and you don’t get that if it’s really cold. In actually freezing temperatures the snow will be nothing but fluff that won’t form into balls or into anything else for that matter.

Something else that happens when it’s really cold is that the snow will look like glitter. Seriously! The trees can be coated in little ice crystals, making a real winter wonderland scene, and on the opposite side of the winter temperature scale, wet snow will weigh down the branches. For additional conflicts in your wintertime story, why not make a tree fall down from the weight of the snow, causing blockages in the road or even a roof caving in? Just a thought.

Some things I also feel compelled to mention: cold weather has a distinct smell, wet snow will get stuck on the bottom of your shoes or on the wheels of your bike and handling snow with bare hands doesn’t feel great.

How do people live in colder climates?

If your story takes place in a country that gets cold weather and snow on a regular basis, it will also be reflected in the way that people live. They probably don’t have pools on their backyards and they will have some method of heating the house. That’s right, not all fireplaces are decorative.

Keeping the house warm can even get expensive or difficult if it’s a very cold and hard winter (or even if it isn’t) which is something to consider when writing your story.

What do people do in winter?

What should your characters do in winter

You may already know about Christmas, but many other cultures around the world have some kind of a celebration in the darkest time of the year. If you’re writing a fantasy story, I don’t think it would be out of place for you to have some kind of a mid-winter feast to celebrate making it through winter.

If your characters live somewhere it gets really cold, it makes sense they have less of a social life outside their home during winter, especially if they live in a rural area or if your story takes place in the past. It might not be safe to travel long distances and you might not even want to if it’s cold.

Of course, not all life in confined indoors. Although I don’t personally endorse them, winter sports still exist. Cross-country skiing can be done pretty much anywhere as long as you have snow and it can be a way for your characters get from A to B, you can skate on frozen bodies of water or you could compete in snowboarding and what have you.

How to get in the mood for writing wintery scenes

We’re currently going through a very warm spell, so if I needed to get in a wintery mood, I’d probably first play some Skyrim because the wintery areas in the game always make me feel chilly no matter what the weather is like. If there are any video games you like that have any wintery areas, those can be great for immersing yourself in the season. Naturally, movies and TV shows can do the same for you as well.

If you’d like some wintery sounds in the background of your writing, searching “winter ambience” on Youtube brings you great videos with the appropriate soundscape, like this one. If there’s any music that reminds you of winter, even if it’s highly unseasonal winter holiday music, you might want to listen to it even if the people you live with give you sideways glances for listening to Jingle Bells in July. Spotify also has plenty of wintery playlists with music that isn’t necessarily holiday-related.

Smells are another great way to take you to a different place. I’m a bit Christmas-oriented myself, so if I can’t find the smell of snow from anywhere, a touch of cinnamon might be able to transport me to the middle of winter. A nice cup of hot chocolate might do the same for you.

Conflict ideas for winter scenes

Here are some ways that winter can complicate things for your characters. Yes, most of these ideas have something to do with snow.

  • There’s too much snow on the roads for cars and people get stuck or they’re very late. There can also be accidents on the roads either because of snow or ice. (Please note: People in countries where snow is normal have better infrastructure for dealing with snow. I’ve never in my life had a snow day from school.)
  • A roof caves in because of heavy snow – very dangerous and somebody could die.
  • A couple gets in an argument about who has to shovel the snow off the driveway this time.
  • Someone is not prepared to dress appropriately for the weather and they have to suffer because of it.
  • Somebody falls through ice and drowns in the lake.
  • The frost coming in too soon can be disasterous for people who depend on the land.
  • Preservatives and other food runs out, leading to desperate measures.

Plot ideas for winter stories

You can use the plot ideas in this post in any way you want. They’re here to give you some ideas for how to use seasons in your writing, and you could use these seasonal writing prompts for full stories or just scenes within a bigger story.

  • Because of the cost of living crisis, Judy is forced to accept odd jobs in order to afford heating her house in the winter. The thing is, the odd jobs in her hometown are really odd and she’s not entirely sure if keeping her house warm is worth it.
  • Cameron has always dreamed of seeing snow and he travels from his homeland Australia all the way to Lapland to experience winter before he succumbs to his brain tumour.
  • It’s the coldest winter of the century when Kathy ends up rescuing five cats and two dogs from the streets of Glasgow.
  • Millicent has always wanted a winter wedding and she’s willing to do almost anything to make that happen.
  • The innkeeper at Frozen Raven Pond is used to keeping the stew warm even when it looks like nobody would be stupid enough to brave the snowstorms that plague the area.

Writing about SPRING

Tips for writing spring in your story

Something that is in common with spring everywhere in the world is the coming of new life. New plants start to grow and fields need to be worked on. If your characters are people who depend on their land and on nature, spring will be an important time for them.

Sorry but, when IS spring, exactly?

You might know when and what spring is, but if your story takes place in a different part of the world than where you live, you might be surprised to find out what they consider to be the beginning of spring. If you do a google search on “when does spring start?” you might stumble onto information stating that spring starts on spring equinox at the end of March and ends at the end of June. I don’t personally know a lot of people who would agree with this, and the concept of spring varies in different cultures, customs and climates.

You don’t actually need to have all the details down when you’re writing your story and your readers most likely don’t need to know it either, but if you’re going to mention specific months or dates in your story, you need to know if they would likely count as “spring” or not. Same with other seasons, of course.

When I was writing my book that takes place in the UK, I had to ask my friend who lives there for some details on early spring, though I still left the actual dates blank in the story and only had them in my mind. If you don’t personally know anyone who lives in the place that you’re writing about, you can always find helpful people on the internet or you can google for local news from a certain period of time.

What do people do in spring

Many cultures throughout the time have celebrated spring in different ways, though most of them (I say without actual statistics about it) have something to do with fertility and bringing luck for future crops. Even in modern societies we can still see this, which is why we have chocolate eggs just to name one thing.

Whether your story takes place in a fantasy world or you’re writing about a place you don’t know so well, it’s a good idea to research (or invent) what your characters might celebrate in spring.

Other spring traditions you might need to consider are spring breaks, going to see cherry blossoms, religious traditions like lent and schools nearing their end. And again, if you’re writing about an agrarian society, remember there’s a lot to do as soon as winter ends.

Getting in the mood for writing about spring

What’s the first feeling you get when you think of spring? How can you emphasise it? For me, real spring begins when the snow has melted (it takes all the way until May for that to happen, though I consider spring to start in April) and nature begins to get green again. Early spring is the snow melting from the roads so that it’s easier to ride a bike and you can wear sneakers again, and you can get the lighter jacket out from the storage.

If you want to get in the right mood by looking at pictures of springtime nature, Pinterest is a great option for that. If you search for “spring aesthetic”, you’ll find pictures of lovely flowers, picnics and cute spring outfits that might just bring the season straight to you.

How can spring complicate your story

Spring might be a happy and carefree time for many of us, but there’s no reason why the season might not bring extra complications to your story if you need it to.

  • Any delay in the natural spring can mean trouble for your characters if they depend on nature for their livelihood or life in general.
  • Life in remote parts of the world can be terribly disrupted if winter lingers for too long, especially if they live in the mountains and their roads are treacherous.
  • A sudden melting of the snow can cause flooding that can be dangerous to anyone in the area no matter how fancy their houses are.
  • Allergies, man.
  • If it’s already really warm in spring, that could mean summer is going to be even worse for someone who can’t stand the heat. Let them agonise over his.

Plot ideas for spring stories

  • Will Charles have to leave his family and find work elsewhere when the prolonged winter keeps delaying working on the fields?
  • The Spring Flower Festival brings hundreds of people in Mai’s hometown and until this year it has caused her nothing but trouble.
  • This spring Kadi will graduate from The Academy and she’s not at all looking forward to going back to the farm where she grew up in and where nobody will appreciate her gifts.
  • After months of seasonal depression, Julian is ready to tidy up his home and start enjoying life again.
  • Now that the ice has finally melted, Agnes can take her father’s boat and sail away to see her girlfriend.

Writing about SUMMER

Tips for writing about summer

Summer is just as subjective as any season and I think you’ll find that many people’s opinion depends on when their school used to end and start. You can read more about writing summer in its own blog post.

It’s probably not crucial to know how long exactly does summer last wherever your story takes place, but just something to keep in mind if you want to be accurate. It could also be relevant to your story when you’re worldbuilding, especially if the colder seasons in your world are especially harsh.

How should summer appear in your story setting

Summer, of course, is warm, or it should be, and people certainly hope that it is. The season has a certain feeling of freedom for many of us, though if you have to work all the way through it, there might be a tinge of resentment involved as well. But even working people tend to take any chance they get to enjoy the weather, if there’s anything to enjoy, and people everywhere are rather keen on eating and drinking outside when possible.

There are also different celebrations happening during the summer, like Midsummer or certain countries’ independence days that you could include in your story. And what about nighttime? As I mentioned earlier, summer nights will be quite different around the world, and mentioning this can bring some delightful details to your story.

Consider the place where your story takes place but also the socioeconomic class of the people you’re writing about. Working people will spend summer differently than people who can afford to take long vacations or to work remotely. Preferred holiday locations are also different for different groups of people, which might be fascinating to research if you’re writing historical fiction.

Nature in summer

If nature is an important part of your story and the characters’ lives, you should remember not everything grows at the same time. May flowers are long gone when August begins, and if you’re writing about an agricultural society – imaginary or not – harvesting different crops can be a detail you might want to include.

It’s naturally up to you what you want to include and research, but as a writer I know it isn’t unusual to spend hours to research whether you should mention beetroots in July or not. You as the writer are the best judge of whether your story needs that kind of accuracy and realism or not.

How summer can bring conflict to your story

  • Heatwaves leading to uncomfortably hot houses and people or pets dying in cars.
  • Draught leading to people suffering, moving away or even dying.
  • Not having anything to do.
  • Feeling self-conscious about weather appropriate clothing.

Writing about AUTUMN

Quick tips for writing fall stories

Autumn is definitely my favourite season to read and write about as well as to experience, and it turns out people have just as many opinions about its start time as with any other season. Get more tips in the full post on writing about autumn.

Like I said earlier, the schools starting again tends to mark the beginning of autumn for most people. And yet, a few years ago when I was preparing the autumn line for my old Etsy shop, I found out that many people don’t think autumn starts until some time in October. That was absolutely crazypants to me because in October we’ve already lost most of our fall foliage and we might even get the first snow.

Only you know if “when autumn begins” is relevant to your story. In rural communities, the harvest and then later the colder weather might be all that matter, not the specific dates. If you’re writing about the start of school year, make sure you know when it actually begins.

What does autumn feel like

While autumn might be different around the world, many associate it with beautiful foliage and crisp weather. The weather will likely get cooler, though at first it might be sweater weather in the morning and then too warm again in the afternoon, and it will indeed feel crisp if it’s cool and dry at the same time.

Then there are the rains, which will usually feel much colder than summer rains and can leave you shivering to your core. Autumn can also come with stronger winds and storms.

When it gets even colder when we’re getting closer to winter, isn’t it nice to bundle up inside more layers of clothing? When writing a really cozy autumn scene for your story, remember to include things like what the nice cup of tea smelled like, what the fireplace sounded like and how nice it was to get inside from the cold winds.

I know it’s just the years of traditional schooling that have caused it, but to me autumns always feel like a fresh start and like I ought to be doing something new and different. I feel really motivated to do things and even in my thirties I feel this pull towards buying new stationery.

Your characters might feel the same, and in any case there will usually be new hustle and bustle in their world when the holidays end. In more rural areas, harvest is always a busy a time if the community is growing something on the fields or trees. There can also be celebrations after hunting specific animals, like bears or elks.

Conflict ideas for autumn

  • An autumn storm causes disruptions or perhaps even completely destroys something.
  • Everyone goes back to school, leaving someone else behind.
  • Winter is drawing closer but the family doesn’t have nearly enough food in store.
  • Seasonal depression kicks your character’s butt.

The last word on writing seasons for your story

Like I’ve said several times in this post, the level of detail you want to include is up to you. There’s no need for everyone to know when spring starts in their story world, but if you’re doing research or worldbuilding, it might be a detail that matters.

If you’ve found some inspo and ideas in this post, great! Keep writing your story and come back to the blog for more inspiration.

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