Weather Thesaurus Entry: Blizzard

WEATHER is an important element in any setting, providing sensory texture and contributing to the mood the writer wishes to create in a scene. With a deft touch, weather can enhance the character's emotional response to a specific location, it can add conflict, and it can also (lightly) foreshadow coming events.

However, caution must accompany this entry: the weather should not be used as a window into a character's soul. The weather can add invisible pressure for the character, it can layer the SCENE with symbolism, it can carefully hint at the internal landscape, but it must never OVERTLY TELL emotion. Such a heavy-handed approach results in weather cliches and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight:

A flurry of snowflakes, often flying past on the diagonal and combined with a cold, biting wind. Poor visibility and light quality, snow shifts and drifts, and the surroundings are obscured. Flakes build up quickly on hair and clothing, and ice crystals form on skin, freezing within minutes. Landmarks are often buried and heavy snowfall shifts the landscape quickly, erasing tracks and trails, making exposure to a storm very dangerous.

Smell:

An ozone like scent, fresh & crisp air so cold it can cause pain in the nostrils


Taste:

No taste, will bring down core body temperature quickly if eaten and not melted first. 

Sound:

Howling or whistling wind, tapping sound as flakes ping off clothing, raspy breath

Touch:

Flakes pelt against frozen cheeks, cling to eyelashes and hair. Numbs exposed skin, pain in fingertips and toes, creates an exhausting chore to break a trail through accumulative snow drifts. Shivering, teeth begin to chatter and characters hug themselves to stay warm. Breath warms face briefly before sucked away by the cold. Dry, aching throat from thirst and cold. Wind will cut through clothing, chaps lips, forces eyes into a squint, watery eyes. Discomfort arises from snow drifting down collar of coat, into shoes and boots, and between mittens and cuffs.


EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: A blizzard can provide a strong backdrop of isolation, either for a character or community. Extreme weather forces people together, which can create a volatile environment or an opportunity to confront issues. Blizzards tend to create a feeling of the outside world being held at bay, allowing characters to look inside themselves and their relationships. Readers focus on the immediate scene as characters deal with feeling trapped, which will bring out either their best or worst qualities.

Symbolism: Death, an impossible challenge, foolhardiness, isolation

Possible Cliches: Walking out into a blizzard unequipped as a way of suicide

OTHER: Blizzards occur in cold regions only. Temperature must be close to or below freezing at ground level, and is usually well below freezing. With the wind chill added, exposed skin can freeze after only a small amount of time, causing frostbite and possibly death. Visibility is so reduced that you cold be only a few feet away from safety and never find it. This type of storm can drop several feet of snow within a short period of time and may completely paralyze a populated area by knocking out power and making travel difficult if not impossible. When using a storm of this magnitude, do your research to make sure the severity of it fits your fictional setting.

Don't be afraid to use the weather to add contrast. Unusual pairings, especially when drawing attention to the Character's emotions, is a powerful trigger for tension. Consider how the bleak mood of a character is even more noticeable as morning sunlight dances across the crystals of fresh snow on the walk to work. Or how the feeling of betrayal is so much more poignant on a hot summer day. Likewise, success or joy can be hampered by a cutting wind or drizzling sleet, foreshadowing conflict to come.

19 comments:

Karen said...

Ooh I feel cold after reading that! Very useful though.

Laura Pauling said...

Oh come one, it's almost spring, did you have to do blizzard? :) kidding. One thing I've always loved about snow is going out in the complete silence as it falls around me. It's like the snow covers everything and lulls it to sleep. That's a sound I hear. Silence. Wonderful job, guys!

Traci Kenworth said...

I have a blizzard raging within the mountains my story is setting. This will help me develop the setting/mood better. Thanks!!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Oh, it's your fault we were dumped with an unreal about of snow last night. It's was to get me in to the spirit of the post. :P

Awesome post. You ladies have seriously out done yourselves this time. And I didn't think that was possible. ;)

Becca Puglisi said...

Angela, this is awesome. Living in south Florida, I have no first-hand experience with blizzards and would have no idea how to write them. Thanks to this, I can now fake it :)

Bish Denham said...

YEAH! A new thesaurus! And...oh brrrrrr! Glad I don't live where blizzards regularly rage. (Rage, which is another possible symbol for a blizzard.)

Claudie A. said...

That's a great post, and dead on!

Another thing that happens with blizzard (and, well, any time the temperatures go well below zero):

Your runny nose will freeze. Literally. It won't be runny anymore. It's a funny and somewhat disagreeable sensation.

So glad spring is back!

Kelly said...

Great setting for a story! Especially since we just had a big one in Chicago area this year!

Alicia Gregoire said...

You had to bring blizzard as the first one. Didn't we have enough of them this winter?

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Great post! (though a bit chilly) The things I most associate with blizzards are the eerie silence and the sense of isolation. That, and the purely delicious feeling of being inside of a warm house with a hot cup of chocolate. (I may live in the sunny south now, but I grew up in MD, and endured my share of snowstorms.)

ralfast said...

I don't miss the blizzards of Michigan. I always think of the cutting cold, cutting into my senses, my clothes and my mind like a rain of knives.

And your warning is most necessary. The weather/mood cliches are too many by far.

Matthew MacNish said...

Personally I love cold weather, but a blizzard is a bit much.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss angela! wow you cant know how good this post is for me cause of one of my wips that high up in the mountains in blizzardy weather. i already got it copied and its gonna be a BIG help for my story.
...hugs from lenny

Owllady said...

Good post. Having been through a few blizzards, I want to add that I found the absence of sound creepy. All you can hear is wind; no birds, next to no traffic (or none at all), no people chatting in the street, maybe not even sirens, which is doubly creepy in a city where you usually hear sirens any time of day or night. I always got a strong sense of isolation in a blizzard.

Susanne Drazic said...

Wow, great post! So glad I'm not the one in that picture! Talk about stormy weather. YIKES!

Written Not With Ink said...

Oh my goodness, everyone! Where is the blizzard love? I live in the Chicagoland area and went through the Blizzard of 2011, and I guess I'm one of the weird ones who was energized by the storm! The silence, which creeps so many of you out, is comforting to me! I feel protected and safe when the snow blankets the area!

Watching the snow pile up against our sliding doors while my kids smiles got bigger and bigger as they begged to go out and play...shoveling out our driveway together—getting good exercise & working hard with my family toward a common goal, the camaraderie all the neighbors share as we look over and wave in between piles of shoveled snow...I absolutely look forward to a good blizzard! (I lived in Florida for a while and missed the snow terribly.)

Just thought I'd add a positive perspective. :)

Becca Puglisi said...

That's a great example of why weather shouldn't be cliche in our writing. Though many people may view a type of weather one way, there are always others who see it differently.

Holly Ruggiero said...

I’m loving the new thesaurus.

Angela Ackerman said...

I know, I know...blizzards! But I figured it would be a good one to get out of the way with all the warm weather on the way, just in case any of you people are writing a snowy scene during the summer.

Thanks everyone for all the comments! Hope this new thesaurus is exactly what you needed.

Angela

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