If you’ve never lived in a hot climate or you don’t have experience writing about one, an entire scene set in a tropical paradise or desert can be difficult to write. It is easy to fall into the cliche of every time it’s hot, a bead of sweat rolls down their forehead. But, not all heat causes sweating in the same way and if that’s your only indicator, your story will fall flat.
These 5 tips are here to help you write about heat and hot climates in a realistic and engaging way. So let’s turn up the heat!
Want to learn about writing for other climates? Check out How to Write a Cold Weather Scene!
Sweat Doesn’t Always Pour
A common misconception of hot weather climates is that everyone sweats all the time. This is problematic for a few reasons.
- First off, the type of climate matters. You sweat much more in humid climates than dry climates. A place with a dry heat (deserts most commonly) evaporates most sweat before you even feel it, sometimes leaving a feeling of salt on the body. But there is no pouring sweat.
- Secondly, your character’s hydration level matters. If your character has been in even a more humid climate but is severely dehydrated or hasn’t had water for a day or two, they will sweat less. They physically have less water in their body to turn into sweat.
- Finally, each person varies how much they sweat. There is no standard. Some people are very heavy sweaters and others are not. If everyone is always drenched in sweat, make sure there’s a good reason or else your scene will fall flat.
Sunburn Is Real and Dangerous
I have read many stories where the characters run off to a desert for some reason and simply get a nice tan on day two.
This isn’t realistic for someone who isn’t used to being in sun-soaked areas. Without proper protection, most people will burn to some extent, no matter the race or ethnicity of your character.
And sunburn hurts a lot. Your skin has literally been burnt and prolonged exposure can cause serious harm including sun poisoning. Make sure to factor sunburn into your story, whether it’s giving your characters some form of sunblock (lotions, head coverings, etc) or letting them experience the pain of the burns.
Don’t Forget Your Water Bottle
The average water consumption is somewhere around 90-125 oz for most adults! Each person has their own specific hydration needs and your characters will too. When in warm climates, they will need more water than their normal, especially if they are doing anything physical.
If your characters aren’t drinking enough water, dehydration will set in. It can look like:
- dark pee or peeing very little
- dry mouth
Clothing Can Make or Break You
The type of clothing your character has on will absolutely matter. Wearing less clothing can keep your body cooler but also increases the surface area for sunburn, which can actually make you ultimately feel warmer.
More clothing often means being warmer, but some clothing can actually insulate you so that you’ll stay cooler. Thin, light clothing that covers most of the body is one of the best ways to remain cool but still be protected from the sun. Headwraps are often useful as well for keeping your scalp and face safe from the brutal sun (especially in dryer climates).
The type of climate matters too. In dry heat, exposed skin can more easily become dry and crack or burn if exposed to the sun. Covering your skin is a better option.
But in a humid climate, less clothing can mean less things that can get wet with sweat and drag you down. Think about your setting before deciding on their attire!
Heat Comes In All Shapes and Sizes
Heat comes in many different forms, a few of which I’ve already mentioned briefly. If all you ever say is it’s hot, your readers won’t be able to feel that heat and really engage with your story.
Humid Heat: This type of heat is wet and often feels heavy. Your character will be able to feel the water in the air, in their lungs almost. This is most often found near large bodies of water. Most tropical paradises/jungles fall into this category.
Dry Heat: Dry heat occurs in places with little water in the air, like deserts. People are less likely to sweat visibly here and often times can endure higher temperatures than if they were in a humid climate.
Deathly Hot: Whether it’s humid or dry heat, it can get hot enough to cause your body to dehydrate at an extremely fast rate. This is very dangerous and you often can’t survive for long without large amounts of water, more than normal consumption.
Spring Heat in Varied Climates: If your story is set in a climate that changes seasons, your characters will feel heat differently. A spring heat can seem very warm after a long winter, despite the temperatures still being relatively low.
Fall Heat in Varied Climates: Similar to the one above, if your characters have just gone through a hot summer, even warm temperatures can begin to feel cold in the fall. A 70 degree (F) day in the spring will seem extremely balmy, yet in the fall, it can seem rather chilly.
Reflected Heat: Heat reflects off from many different surfaces and can increase the temperature. Common surfaces include water, black top, mirrored buildings, and metal. A character walking in the suburbs will feel cooler than someone walking in a dense city of mirrored buildings even if the temperature is supposedly the same.
Now Go Write!
Now that you know some ways to really make the temperature soar, go try it out in your own stories. Questions or other ideas? Feel free to comment below. Love it? Share with your friends and fellow writers!