Weather Thesaurus Entry: Sleet
Posted by Angela Ackerman
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).
Similar to hail, sleet occurs in the winter but is much smaller in size and melts quickly. Starting off as raindrops, sleet freezes as it passes through cold air, and then melts quickly as it hits the warmer surface air. It's granular in nature, like coarse sugar. In large amounts these frozen ice pellets in can accumulate like snow, but if the ground is especially warm or the precipitation is not aggressive, will turn quickly to a slushy wet mess, leaving puddles on roadways and flat surfaces. Sloppy and messy, the cold slush can ooze into shoes, make roads and walkways slippery and create muddy splash ups on pant legs as the watery ice mixes with surface grime. Sleet can clog drainage systems and pile up in gutters. Puddles appear soupy, the half-melted pellets floating on the surface.
Like all precipitation, sleet carries an ozone smell to it (a slight metallic odor). It can also create a sense of freshness as it falls and 'dampens' other forms of pollution present in the air.
Water, a metallic tang
Sleet is slushy and cold, bringing pain and numbness to exposed skin. Unlike snow which can slide off clothing without melting, sleet will often soak in, driving a chill deep into the body. Hair grows damp, drizzles of icy water will slide down collars and clothing will grow heavy.
Sleet may make a slight pinging on dry surfaces, but turn into a slightly louder 'slap' sound on wet ones. The speed, accumulation and warmth of the air will factor in on the noise level, which can range from a nearly soundless snowfall to a louder rainfall.
Sleet generally infuses a scene with a sense of misery. Unlike other weather forms, people do not relish the presence of sleet as it only represents a messy, sloppy condition that is a pain to deal with and is often dangerous to commute in.
A dreary existence; unhappiness; emotional numbness or pain; dangerous conditions
None come to mind.
Sleet occurs in winter months and is often accompanied by freezing rain, which can create a sheet of ice on surfaces that is very hazardous to motorists and those on foot. Areas that do not experience snow often yet still have colder temperatures often have to contend with sleet conditions.
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.