Weather Thesaurus Entry: Flood

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: water covering land where it normally wouldn't, swollen rivers, expanding ponds and lakes, heavy rains, floating debris, rushing or stagnant water, people sitting on rooftops, people rowing in canoes or boats, stalled cars, rescue teams, water rising to submerge cars and single-story homes, flooded roads and bridges, power outages, discolored water (orange or brown) from heavy dirt composition

Smell: water and damp, wet wood, earth and dirt, mud

Taste: water, dirt

Touch: wet clothes and skin, pushing your way through water, chills and shivers, the squish of wet carpet underfoot, mud pulling at your shoes, wrinkling skin from being wet for so long

Sound: rushing/lapping/dripping water, walls settling and creaking, debris tapping or scraping the side of the house, people yelling, the whoomp-whoomp of rescue helicopters, voices amplified by bullhorns, wind and rain

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: Floods are powerful and destructive, bringing about a feeling of helplessness and despair. In life-threatening situations, a flood might cause a person to think about the "big picture" questions of mortality, life after death, and gratitude for the important things. As with any natural disaster, it may isolate people or draw them together in the face of danger.

Symbolism: power, God, the wildness and unpredictability of nature, cleansing

Possible Cliches: a flood as a judgment and sign of God's wrath, Noah's ark

OTHER: Floods have a variety of possible causes: heavy rainfall, snowmelt in rivers, over saturated soil, deforestation, dam or levee failures. Some floods occur seasonally in certain areas while others are completely unexpected. Flash floods are the most dangerous and cause the majority of flood-related deaths.

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. 

18 comments:

JeffO said...

Great post, as always. Something to think about as well is the aftermath of the flood. You mentioned smells - after the waters recede, you'll have to smell of mold and mildew, possibly rot depending on what's been tossed up and left behind. Downed trees, ruined homes, piles of garbage, silt. Not fun.

Bonnee said...

Ooh floods can create like the whole story. They're so strange and can do so many different things. We get some flash-flooding in my area and because my house is kinda in a ditch the driveway turns into like a waterfall. It's sooo freaky.

Traci Kenworth said...

A scary situation to be in. I shudder to think what it would be like. Great post!!

Janet Smart said...

when I was growing up we had lots of floods in our holler where we lived. It caused over flowing creeks, land slides and after it was all over, people walking up and down the road looking at the aftermath. I've got a big storm in one of my manuscripts.

Angela Ackerman said...

I can only imagine the heartache a flood would bring and I'm thankful I've never had to deal with one. A few years back it was close, the river near our house had flooded, but we were one of the lucky ones. A few more days of rain though...and I'm sure it would have crept up on our house as well.

Floods are frighteningly powerful. Rivers swell and you'll see power poles, park benches, uprooted trees and all kinds of debris rushing past.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wonderful, as always. I particularly like the sounds! :-)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Weather, too, can bring about a sense of helplessness. When I was a girl, we lived in the Philippines and experienced the hit of a Typhoon dead on--got the Eye. Magnificent. Deadly.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Tolkien used water and weather to great effect in his books. When you saw water, you were in trouble and someone was going to die.

The Golden Eagle said...

Having lived in two areas that experienced record flooding, that picture strikes close to home.

Great post on floods! I've never tried writing about one, but it would be interesting to try.

PJ Hoover said...

How I just love your site!

Francene said...

I've just found this site, passed on from Holly Michael. Really helpful. I particularly like the weather blog. Wonderful. Keep up the good work, girls.

Angela Ackerman said...

Hi Francene! Welcome! Thanks everyone for the comments. Your experiences help round out these entries and we sure appreciate it. :)

Matthew MacNish said...

You guys don't miss a beat.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss becca! wow! another cool weather post. i didnt ever write about a flood but i could see how it could make for strong emotions. i wasnt ever in a flood cept for our basement one time but even thats got emotions cause of stuff that got ruined.
...hugs from lenny

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

A great post. Unfortunately, I know too much about floods. I'd add the burning smell of bleach to the category of smells. It's the only way to kill the almost instantaneous infiltration of mold and mildew. ICK.

Becca Puglisi said...

Great details, everybody. Though I've lived through numerous hurricanes, I've fortunately personally avoided the floods. So these first-hand details are very helpful.

Jeanne said...

My community flooded last fall, and the sensory details were indeed overwhelming. The thing that struck me was the way that the prominent sensory detail changed over a few days. First, it was the sound, then the visual of the water in places it didn't belong. After the water receded, it was the mud, yes, but also the stench that lasted for a week or more. That moldy basement stench combined with that of leaking diesel fuel. It made me clasp my hand across my nose and mouth, rush out to buy masks, anything to escape it. Clogged sinuses and an irritated throat - yup, that's the sensory detail I remember most.

Michael Horvath said...

Although I use this it is one area I can definitely expand upon.

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