Posted by: Kathleen Mix | January 6, 2014

Love Those Winter Woes

In everyday life, ice and snow may be a minor nuisance or cause a major delay during a morning commute. But in fiction, snow and frigid temperatures are always welcome as a means of wrecking havoc.

Conflict, or an antagonistic force, helps stories hold our interest while they test a hero’s intelligence, strength, and courage. Man has been in conflict with nature since the earliest days of our existence, and cold climate conditions are an ever-present danger to our warm-blooded body’s survival.

Snow and ice can have hundreds of uses in fiction, limited only be an author’s imagination. Blinding snow or roads slicked with black ice hinder a hero’s ability to drive when he is being pursued or rushing to save a life. Trudging along in freezing temperatures without a hat or gloves puts him at risk of frostbite, but he has nowhere in the wilderness to shelter. Blizzards knock down power lines and can leave a defenseless heroine or child alone in a drafty cabin lit only by a flickering candle. The ice on a windswept lake might be too thin to cross and crack under a character’s weight.

Cold weather gives characters things to do: split and stack firewood before the storm hits, warm their numb hands in front of the hearth, cuddle under a thick blanket, or try to stop shivering by sipping a mug of steaming cocoa.

Snow cover holds clues in a mystery or suspense. Tire tracks can lead investigators to the make of a get-away car. Footprints can create a trail for a detective to follow. Drag marks can reveal where a body was moved. A depression in an otherwise level snowfield can be a clue to the location of a pit or shallow grave.

All the things about cold and snow that we consider hardships or nuisances in our everyday lives have the potential to ramp up the conflict in a story and make our hero show his true grit. So if you live in a part of the country where snow falls frequently, let your winter woes enliven your fiction.

Go ahead, let it snow.

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