Weather Thesaurus Entry: Mudslide

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).


Sight: Before: soil slipping away from foundations, tilting decks or patios, dry areas turning suddenly wet or seeping, leaning telephone poles or fences that used to be straight, cracked concrete foundations, trickling flows of mud, changes in drainage patterns on nearby slopes, bulges in the ground at the base of the slope. During: Mudslides take the form of fast-moving masses of debris, varying from a moderately muddy to a thick, rocky consistency. They occur on steep hillsides, often after heavy periods of rain. Slides pick up debris as they flow, increasing in volume and reaching speeds up to 35 miles per hour. Thick slides can carry dangerous debris, such as boulders, trees, and cars. The slide slows and spreads out as it reaches flat ground. After: Even after the slide has stopped, large mounds of earth can continue to fall. The aftermath of a landslide includes blocked roads, buried and destroyed structures, and hill/mountainsides with great sections sheared off.

Smell: water, dirt, mud

Taste: n/a

Touch: a shifting of the ground, soil sliding out from under you, a trembling in the earth as the slide grows closer, cracks and groans of houses shifting, a steadily increasing rumble as the slide nears

Sound: faint rumblings that increase in volume over time, trees breaking or boulders cracking together, gunshot-like claps when larger slides start, 


Mood: Though there can be warning signs, mudslides often come on suddenly. Many victims are lucky to escape with their lives. When surveying the damage, they are left feeling vulnerable and helpless. The aftermath of a disaster of this nature can lead to an increased sense of camaraderie and community as people pull together in the face of devastation and loss.

Symbolism: the force of nature, punishment, the randomness of fate, God

Possible Cliches: mudslides as the result of irresponsible cutting and deforestation (though this is a realistic scenario)

OTHER: Certain conditions must exist for a mudslide to occur. Obviously, there must be a steep hill or mountainside. Slides are more likely to occur in places where vegetation has been removed through deforestation, construction, or wildfires. Slides happen during periods of heavy rain, when water soaks into the ground faster than it can run off, so if you want to include a mudslide in your story, make sure you don't forget the rain.

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.


tracikenworth said...

A terrifying condition!! I like the phrase, "God's punishment," reminds me of something a character who survived a mudslide might be very vocal about. Even though it's not true, of course. But within the story, there are loads of possibility from that viewpoint. Great job!!

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss becca! cool post. my brother got in a bug mudslide in china on a mountain. what you said bout coming together helping each other is what he said bout it and he met new chinese friends thats still his friends. so i could see how it could help out a story a bunch of ways.
...hugs from lenny

Heather said...

I love the idea of using this as a result of deforestation. You've inspired me!

SarahJaneway said...

Wow, I can't believe I never thought of using a mudslide! I don't have anything in the works at the moment that would fit with such a weather event, but it's definitely getting filed away for future projects. Thanks!

Angela Ackerman said...

I know that some of these entries seem off the map, but as writers, we're always trying to give readers a new experience. If it fits with the story, creating a traumatic event by using one of these not-so-common weather situations will offer something unique to the audience. :)

Great job, Becca!


Shannon O'Donnell said...

I never would have thought of this! I love the specificity you both provide in these posts. :-)

Carrie Butler said...

I ~love~ posts that make me say, "Wow! I'd never even considered that before!" Great work! :)

The Golden Eagle said...

I wouldn't have thought of using a mudslide, either . . . it's an interesting idea!

Clarissa Draper said...

Mudslides scare me. I know it's rare where I live but I'm glad you added this entry.

Matthew MacNish said...

This is a unique one. Unique, but great!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Okay this just shows what a crazy person I am, but when I saw the title all I could think of was the DRINK. ACK! Great post as always.

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