Monday, November 10, 2008

Let It Snow

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It's going to happen soon enough, so you may as well be ready for it when it arrives. Dare I say that naughty, four letter word? SNOW@!#

My area of the Midwest was hammered with that pesky stuff last year, as evidenced by the photo to the left. Instead of looking on it as something evil, which is easy to do since it gets in the way when you want to drive or walk, think of it as an opportunity for better writing. Use snow in your manuscript.

When you do this, don't dwell on the obvious. Instead of describing snow as pretty, white, or cold, use it as a vehicle to move your plot forward.

Common Occurrence: During the winter my newspaper often gets buried in the snow and I discover it later when shoveling the stoop.

Opportunity: What if an important article about a rapist or mass killer were in the paper, but a victim wasn’t alerted because she didn’t uncover her paper from the snow in time?

Common Occurrence: Snow covers car windows, fogs up glasses, and makes it hard to see.

Opportunity: Your character is involved in a vehicle accident due to poor visibility. Take it a step further. The ambulance can't get there because of a traffic buildup. The hero performs CPR on an accident victim.

True example: One winter I slipped in the snow and banged my head on the sidewalk. For a moment I felt disoriented, but then was able to get up and walk away.

Opportunity: What if your character slipped, was knocked unconscious and suffered amnesia?

True example: Snowstorms often delay my mail.

Opportunity: What if your character is waiting for an important letter, but it slips from the mail carrier’s hands in the wind and gets buried in the snow a few doors down?

You get the picture. Sure, snow is pretty, but it’s also a useful vehicle. See how many ways you can make snow do things for you.


Morgan is also at, &


  1. Snow? That white stuff in the movies? Here's a scenario. Clueless Texan visits the midwest, runs out to play in the snow and is found five months later in her flip flop and tank top. Or she bundles up in so many layers that when she gets cold, she realizes she can't climb the steps to the house and the zipper is frozen so she can't get out of the coat layered over another coat. Midwest native writer sees her and comes to rescue, but starts laughing so hard she can't do anything but sit on the steps and cry.

    Ooh, ooh, I see a short story developing here.

  2. The kind of snow in school plays was never cold...but it would be hard to breath if you managed to inhale it. Then there's the yellow version...

  3. Morgan, thanks for the excellent tips. I miss the snow. Spent ten years in Omaha NE and I loved the snow. My hubby didn't.

    Helen, loved your scenario. But are you sure Morgan would help you? Think Stephen King and imagine Midwest writer with an evil grin as she watches you sink into a deep snowbank. Macabre music in the background as the snow covers your face.

  4. And I thought I had an imagination!
    Go for it Helen!

    If snow didn't get in my way when I want to do things, I wouldn't mind it so much!

    Morgan Mandel

  5. Ahh, Maryann, you're right. I now see my "fiends" short story morphing into a psychological murder thriller.

  6. I've been waiting for the snow here. We had a dusting a couple of weeks back and my husky got so excited. Now whenever it so much as even frosts, he does a dance all over our yard.

    Great writing tips, as always, Morgan!

  7. "White stuff in the movies" - that's it exactly! When I lived in London I managed to experience standing outside our apartment in a very light snowfall - absolutely gorgeous. But the snow didn't fall long enough while I was there to create more than a dusting over the road which was melted by mid-morning. We even tried to ensure a white xmas by travelling up to Shetland, but no go, no snow. Plenty of wind though.

    Anyway, here is it heading towards summer. Beautiful at the moment. But fire season is around the corner. Sigh.

  8. My dog, Rascal, hates anything that makes her wet. One reason is because she doesn't have much hair.

    Morgan Mandel


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.