Weather Thesaurus Entry: Avalanche

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: Avalanches occur in mountainous terrain where a natural pockets of snowpack build up, made from either fresh snow or layers of older, compacted snow.  Often a shift in temperature (thaw), rainfall or windstorm can trigger an avalanche. If too much snow accumulates too quickly, or rain compacts fresh snow creating an unstable heavy slab, an avalanche is an event waiting to happen…

Smell: The tang of ozone would be the most noticeable, along with pine or spruce needles…

Taste:Cold, metallic snow, ice crystals…

Touch: Chunks of snow pummeling the body, branches whipping against the face, clawing for handholds, the drag of snow pulling you under, arms and fist slamming into the snow in an attempt to stay at the surface, the squeeze of snow debris against the body…

Sound: The precursor sound to an avalanche is a whomp noise.  This is the sound of instability in the ice pack and if close enough a person would hear the crack as a layer of snowpack breaks. If an avalanche is in motion, trees crack and snap on the way down, there is a hiss as fresh slow…


Mood: Avalanches can infuse a sense of terror into a scene. Wild, uncontrolled and deadly, those who witness one, live through one or by chance alone, narrowly miss being caught in one are brought face to face with their own mortality. A somberness follows in its wake as horror sets in: being caught in such a force would most likely…

Symbolism: A lack of control, volatility, an unstable lifestyle…

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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13 Responses to Weather Thesaurus Entry: Avalanche

  1. Pingback: Weather Thesaurus Entries Collection | Writers Helping Writers

  2. Jeanne says:

    So is there any truth to the old wisdom of raising your arm directly overhead before the avalanche comes – it’s supposed to make it easier for search crews to find you because they’ see your blue, frozen fingers above the snow. But if the force of the avalanche pushes you ass over teakettle, where did that kind of advice come from?

  3. Leslie Rose says:

    Don’t avalanches form ice caves so you can get stuck inside with your true love? Oh, wait. That’s avalanches on soap operas.

  4. Stacy Green says:

    These sensory posts are my favorite. Gives me so much to think about. Thanks, Angela!

  5. Tara Tyler says:

    i love these posts with sensory descriptions! so helpful!

  6. Ah, watch out!! Lol. Don’t ever want to land under the deafening roar and crash of an avalanche, for sure. Great sensory details!!

  7. Ah, watch out!! Lol. Don’t ever want to land under the deafening roar and crash of an avalanche, for sure. Great sensory details!!

  8. Eek! I hope I don’t have to write a scene where my characters have to be buried alive. Please don’t give them any ideas. I’ve got enough bad things going on as it is.

    But fantastic post as always.

  9. Didn’t Braveheart have a scene where it was raining over a battle? It worked there. Why can’t it work in you manuscript?

  10. Angela Brown says:

    You were right. That video was not for the faint of heart. But it would provide someone incorporating avalanche with a first hand account of the experience of being buried alive; the immediate terror, rapid breathing, the noises made by clothing while buried alive. Very intense scenes can be designed.

  11. Deb Marshall says:

    As always…most excellent post!

  12. JC Piech says:

    I love these weather thesaurus posts! 😀

    Also, I really love this blog in general, so I’ve nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award! It’s a great way for bloggers to network and support each other! I have more information here:

  13. Karen Lange says:

    Love the idea of layering a scene. Thanks so much for this. It’s great, as always! 🙂

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