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…

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…


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…

Symbolism: the force of nature, punishment…

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

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.

Weather is a powerful tool, helping to foreshadow events and steer the emotional mood of any scene.

Need more detail regarding this weather element? Good news! This thesaurus has been integrated into our new online library at One Stop For Writers. There, not only has the information in each entry been enhanced and expanded, we’ve also added scenarios for adding conflict and tension. The entire thesaurus is also cross-referenced with our many other descriptive collections for easy searchability. Registration is free, so if you’re interested in seeing a sampling of the fully updated Weather and Earthly Phenomenon Thesaurus, head on over to One Stop.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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Amish Stories
9 years ago

Id like to invite you folks to come to Amish Stories for a recipe for “Famous Pennsylvania Dutch Sticky Cinnamon Buns” along with a book signing schedule for Amish fiction writer Wanda Brunstetter for Pennsylvania and Ohio as well as a contest to meet her. I hope everyone so far is having a great weekend. Thanks everyone. Richard from Amish Stories.

Lisa Gail Green
9 years ago

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.

Matthew MacNish
9 years ago

This is a unique one. Unique, but great!

Clarissa Draper
9 years ago

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

The Golden Eagle
9 years ago

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

Carrie Butler
9 years ago

I ~love~ posts that make me say, “Wow! I’d never even considered that before!” Great work! 🙂

Shannon O'Donnell
9 years ago

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

Angela Ackerman
9 years ago

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!


9 years ago

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!

9 years ago

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

Lenny Lee*
9 years ago

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

9 years ago

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!!