The picture above was on the internet showing the wierdest cloud I've ever seen and never hope to again. The building beneath the ominous black cloud is the football offices and locker rooms of Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. It's where we live and where we attend all K-State football games. Going out from either side of the building is our stadium which seats 50,000 fans.
Saturday, we were playing the University of Central Florida. I read in the paper that many of the UCF players had never been to the Midwest before. After the experience we had during the game, they may never want to return. During the Ft. Riley Day pre-game festivities, I watched the thunderclouds in the north. A few jagged streaks of lightning sliced through them every now and then, but it all appeared to be far away from the stadium. Suddenly, a cloud lower than the others began to appear, and it spread from west to east looking like a wall. Later I heard someone say the actual term is a wall cloud, but on TV that evening, a weatherman corrected it. He said what we had is a shelf cloud. Seems a wall cloud has tornadoes boiling up inside it and a shelf cloud does not, just brings on severe storms. Whichever it was, I found it pretty scary.
The game had been going for about three minutes when the announcer told the fans that the game was suspended because of lightning in the area. He urged us to leave immediately and seek shelter. Surprisingly, thousands of people filed out in an orderly fashion. Some went to cars in the parking lots, while others found refuge in the basketball coliseum close by. Those in charge had opened it immediately. By the time Ken and I had gotten into the coliseum, the wind picked up and flags whipped furiously on their poles, and then torrents of rain covered the area.
An hour and twenty-five minutes later, the teams were back on the field, fans in the stands, and play resumed. The rain stopped, the storm clouds disappeared and the sun came out. We had a happy ending to the storm and also the game, which we won late in the fourth quarter.
The experience made me think about how great storms are for background in stories. What offers better possibilities for vivid description? What offers better chances to bring emotion to the characters? What offers better opportunities to weave suspense or terror into a story?. Take a look at the fiction stories you've written, then try and rewrite them with a storm theme running through. It could be like taking one of those new 2:30 p.m. five hour energy pills I see in an oft-repeated TV commercial lately. Weave a storm around your story, and it might end up a winner.