Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let It Snow?

This article is an updated remake of one I posted here in 2008, but one that applies at this time of year..

It happens often enough, but I still can't get used to it. I'm never ready when it comes. Dare I say that naughty, four letter word?

SNOW@!#  - Yikes, I've said it.

My area of the Midwest gets hammered with that pesky stuff quite often, 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 my way when I want to drive or walk, I'm trying to think of it as an opportunity for better writing. Snow can be useful, that is, if it's included in a manuscript.

When doing this, it's best not to dwell on the obvious. Almost anyone can describe snow as pretty, white, or cold. The trick is to use snow as a vehicle of moving the plot forward.

Common Occurrence: During the winter my newspaper often gets buried in the snow and doesn't get discovered until later when the stoop is shoveled.

Opportunity: What if an important article about a rapist or mass killer were in the paper, but a victim wasn’t alerted because snow covered the paper?

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, or maybe a person stuck in the snow tries to walk and suffers from hypothermia and/or frostbite.

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? Maybe the letter was an apology or love letter and turns up years later, after the people involved had moved on with their lives? Maybe even married someone else?

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. Can you mention some?
Morgan is at http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/
Also at  http://facebook.com/morgan.mandel
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  1. I like the way you think! You're write--snow is more than a weather element--it can drive the complications for a character and plot!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  2. It's always a good think to take the 'ordinary' and create conflict. I'm experiencing my first winter in a place where it snows (none of that in my previous 30 years in Florida) and there are a myriad sensations to discover.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  3. Oh wow-- you've gotten my brain going now. My MC is just coming into winter:)

  4. I tweeted this, it sounds exciting, but don't know if I could write about snow. Being a California girl, I have no concept of snow getting in the way of things. Snow is something we go to for a day of fun. Maybe, I can write about the intense summer heat. thanks for the suggestions.

  5. I'm not too thrilled with our recent batch of snow, but I'm trying to look on the bright side and think positive.

    Morgan Mandel

  6. Aw, it doesn't snow much in your area does it? I live close and dread the stuff as much as you do.But, I watched my granddaughter touch it for the first time the other day. That, and the humor associated with snow does give rise to many a story. You're a very good writer so I would expect a lot of stories from this white rain.

  7. SNOW? What is that? We live in Central Texas and it is a rare occurence. Snow, we could handle--we get ice, and let me tell you, it can paralyze cities and communities.
    We drive to Michigan--through Ohio--and learned not to go too late in the Fall or too early in the spring.
    One year, we went our usual time in the spring, but the morning we left brought a late snowstorm. I don't mind telling you, snow terrifies me. We had packed the van the night before, got up at 4:30 "to get ahead of the worst of the storm," but discovered no such thing worked. It was pitch dark, and by the time we got to the interstate south to Toledo, the highways were completely covered. We got behind an 18-wheeler and stayed only close enough to see his lights. If he went into the ditch, we'd notice and we wouldn't follow!!!
    Anyway, it was harrowing until daylight. Never again. I almost had nervous breakdown.
    Cold wet winter days? Love them!!!!

  8. I used snow as a way for a hero to meet the heroine. He was shoveling his drive when she came home. Of course, she slipped and fell while trying to avoid him, embarassing herself. She didn't want to meet him, but meet him, she didn. He then proceed to check for broken bones. It was a fun scene to write. I carry it farther when the neighbor kids (one of them the hero's granddaugheter, harass the woman and build snowmen in her yard as well as throw snowballs at the house. This causes more meetings between them. BTW she's a bit of a scrooge.

  9. Morgan,
    Wow - very creative. I was thinking of stranding my couple in a log cabin and letting them make love! LOL!!

    Awesome thoughts. I would have never thought of half of them. *wink

  10. I always think about getting snowed in for three or four days like happened in Indiana one year, and how close we can come to violence when cooped up in a house with teenagers...

    and then I think of being snowed in for much longer in a mountain hotel with Jack Nicholson...

    and then I stop wishing quite so hard for a snowy Christmas here in northern Colorado.

  11. Thanks for the reminder, Morgan. It is fun to revisit these posts and get the "lessons" again.

  12. Celia, I had a similar experience driving through a blizzard in S Dakota one year. Never want to do that again.

  13. What an excellent use of snow! I always go to my characters being stranded as a killer stalks them. But then again, I directed Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, so that's really no surprise.

  14. Great uses of snow everyone. I happen to love the white stuff. We've seen some flurries in Western Mass, but are awaiting that first good storm that covers the roads.

    Since I write historicals, snow usually creates an obstacle for my characters. In one story, I'm working on, a young girl is away at school. She's miserable there, without any real friends, and because of the weather she is trapped at school instead of going home like she wished.

    In a short story I'm writing just for fun, a Christmas Eve blizzard traps a town of folks at the hotel after church services and some of the members share memories of Christmases past.

    Good luck with your writing, no matter how you use the white stuff.


  15. Snow is great, can't live without it. It simply means skiing. Had a great evening today, taking little boy to skiing practice in the local resort >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  16. Very good, Morgan! Being from an area that doesn't get much snow, I, as a character, could easily get killed in it just from falling. And I certainly don't know how to drive in it. Put a Southerner in a blizzard and she'd kill herself just starting a fire. At least there's a good chance I would.

  17. Snow, glorious snow! Ha!!! I rarely thought that. I used to hyperventilate if there was snow on the driveway because what if I needed to get out suddenly because one of the kids needed to go to the doctor?

    We also had a monster snow storm the night before we were supposed to leave on a romantic cruise, but we couldn't get our cars down the driveway, much less off the circle where we lived. Lots of emotion invested in that shoveling effort.

    What if your characters learned that a bank would be robbed or some other such big mischief, but they couldn't intervene because a snow storm blocked the roads and knocked out the power. They would still very much need to take action but they'd have to get around the obstacle.

  18. Sounds like I got some of you thinking. Snow does have its uses, I guess.

    Morgan Mandel

  19. 24 inches so far this winter. Oh my aching back, I like stories set in the heat.

  20. Morgan, I am cold just reading your post. Snow is nice to look at in pictures. I prefer the cold wave hitting South Florida now. Good for you for turning problems into opportunities.

  21. I like the snow because it makes me stay home to write. No excuses!

  22. I wish I could stay home when it snows, but most of the time I have to get to work. It happens so often around here, the economy would shut down if we all took off every time it snowed.

    Morgan Mandel


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