WEATHER AND EARTHLY PHENOMENON THESAURUS

AVALANCHE



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HELPFUL TIP:

Don’t be afraid to pair weather conditions with your setting choice to contrast or reinforce a character’s emotions. Hopelessness might be mirrored in the relentless drizzle of rain and the resulting heavy drag of one’s clothes; alternatively, this feeling can stand out in stark contrast to sunlight dancing over fresh snow. Can weather also provide symbolism, thereby enriching the reader’s experience? Think about your goal for the scene and the mood you are trying to create, and then layer your description with meaningful choices.
SIGHTS:
Sudden cracks or fissures
Snowpack that pulls away and slides rapidly down a mountain
A chute of snow that widens, accumulating mass as it races downhill
A thick billowing cloud of frost at the forefront
A rush of white that carves through the tree line (snapping vegetation, uprooting trees and yanking boulders from their earthy beds)
A wall of snow slamming into buildings and dislodging them from their foundations
Falling rock and ice
Structures that are buried or pulled apart in an instant
Giant chunks of snow sliding and tumbling
Trails erasing
Power poles sinking into the white
Animals running in terror
Birds taking flight
Brightly dressed skiers or climbers trying to flee only to be pulled under
Splintered trees and loose pine needles dirtying the snow
A field of giant ice lumps and jutting debris in the aftermath

SMELLS:
Ozone
Pine needles
Cedar and other woody scents
Crisp air

TASTES:
A slightly metallic flavor of snow and ice crystals
Sour breath (from fear)
Coppery blood (from biting one's tongue during the event)

TEXTURES AND SENSATIONS:
Ice crystals pelting the skin
A wall of snow slamming into one's body
Handholds that crumble or break
Sharp ice or tree splinters scraping and cutting
Numb extremities
The squeeze of packed snow encasing one's body
Slamming one's arms against the slide of snow to avoid being pulled under
The drag of skis and gear
Being thrown forward in an unending tumble
Snow caking one's nose and mouth
Throbbing pain (cuts, bruises, scrapes, broken bones)
Biting cold as snow and ice comes to rest against one's exposed flesh

SOUNDS:
A crack as the snow pack breaks away from the shelf
A whomp sound as the slide drops
The hiss of ice crystals spraying everything in their path
Trees cracking and splintering
Large debris thumping and knocking as it is thrown downhill
The screech of birds taking flight
Animals screaming and hooves pounding in wooded areas
A loud rumble
Unnatural quiet in the aftermath

REINFORCING A MOOD:
  • Wild, uncontrolled, and deadly, avalanches infuse a sense of terror into a scene. Those who witness, live through, or narrowly miss being caught in one are brought face to face with their own mortality.
  • A somberness follows this type of event. A brush with an avalanche—or even witnessing the aftermath—may cause some to rethink their priorities or reconnect with important people in their lives.
  • Avalanches can foreshadow a life-altering event in which the point-of-view character loses control or is faced with a situation that leaves a hard, emotional impact.

SYMBOLISM:
A LACK OF CONTROL, VOLATILITY, INSTABILITY, OBSTACLES, THE FURY OF MOTHER NATURE, AN IMPOSSIBLE FOE, DANGER, MAN VS. NATURE CONFLICT

COMMON CLICHÉS:
A character outpacing an avalanche in an action scene (skiing, snowmobiling, driving down a mountain road, etc.)

WEATHER NOTES:
Most avalanches are triggered when weight is placed on an unstable surface, often by skiers, snowboarders, hikers or snowmobiles. Noise triggering an avalanche is largely a myth as the sound would need to be intensely loud (such as a nearby explosion) to cause for this event. Outrunning an avalanche is nearly impossible without a vehicle that travels at high speeds and can maneuver well. Most avalanche victims survive if dug out within the first fifteen minutes, but odds drop to thirty percent or lower after forty-five minutes. After two hours, there are no survivors. In most cases, the cause of death is carbon monoxide poisoning.

SCENARIOS FOR ADDING CONFLICT OR TENSION:
  • Living in a remote area where an avalanche takes out a road or a supply route, causing great hardship
  • A nearby avalanche placing stress on emergency services, so when an life-or-death situation arises (a fire, a car accident, etc.), no one is available to help
  • Skiing with one's family when an avalanche occurs and discovering afterward that family members are missing