Hi everyone. This post is for anyone who wants a realistic scene set in a cold climate. This is probably especially difficult for those coming from warm climates, so I’ll do my best. Here are five tips to your character (and readers).
(All temperatures in Fahrenheit)
- Shivering happens but don’t use that as your only way to convey the cold. Many people actually don’t shiver very much, while others tend to do the whole teeth chattering . It varies. Don’t make your character shiver every time you want to tell your reader its cold or it’s going to get boring and predictable.
- Some other physical reactions are a very red nose, cheeks that feel rubbed raw, a very warm mouth (since its the only part that will feel warm), fingers that move slowly, wet hair that actually freezes, burning earlobes, and burning toes. Though burning tends to feel like the opposite reaction to cold, often times when the cold gets to a point, it does truly feel like burning.
- DON”T simply tell us how your character feels though. If you want us to shiver along with them, tell us how the wind is whipping through the trees, creaking and groaning like an old rocking chair. Tell us how the snow sparkles with ice crystals, hardened so that the newly fallen snow bounces on the top every time a breeze stirs the air. Tell us how the snow seems to blaze in the sun, radiating a heat that tempts one to step outside yet saps the warmth the moment you do. Tell us how the snow falls, tiny little specs of ice floating down to land on a nose or a forehead, a single soldier in the army coming from the sky to cover the land in an icy grip.
- Clothing makes a difference. Wearing a big warm fluffy coat will help, but the key to staying warm (or freezing without) is layering. A character can survive even negative temperatures with a few pairs of socks, a few shirts, sweatshirts, and a regular coat. But remember, especially in the extreme cold, any uncovered part (nose, ears, cheeks) will get very cold, very quickly, even if the rest of you is warm. It’s an unpleasant feeling, trust me.
- Remember, not all cold is the same. Don’t just meld them all into the same thing. Some kinds of cold are :
- Icy and clear/windy- this is a painful cold, but usually leads to a burning feeling. This is where frostbite happens. Wind is worse when the day is clear because there is no other resistance. You become the only thing for it to batter against. (Actual: negatives to single digits. Feels like: extreme negatives)
- Icy and snowy- this is dangerous, but often times beautiful. When it’s extremely cold, snowflakes tend to be small, hard, and more like ice. This can be deceiving and can lead to extremely slippery conditions. (Negative to single digit)
- Cold and clear-this is the most normal. It’s cold, but the sun is out or it’s not precipitating. If your character is going on a journey or traveling, this will be the best kind of day. You can even get warm while doing things in this kind of day. (Mid-teens to high twenties)
- Cold and wet/snowing- This is the type of day where the temperatures are a little higher but because of that the snow is heavy, thick, and tends to be very wet. Despite not being very cold, this can be one of the most dangerous to be out in. You tend to get very wet in it and if you’re not properly prepared, this can lead to pneumonia or hypothermia. (High twenties to mid-thirties)
- Cold and wet/rain- It’s cold, yet it’s raining. Occasionally it feels more like sleet coming down. This is miserable. It’s not extremely cold but the rain makes everything wet. This is can also lead to pneumonia. An especially dangerous aspect is the fact that when the sun goes down, the rain tends to turn to ice on the roads, sidewalks, and other surfaces making everything extremely slick. (Low thirties to high thirties)
- There are many mixes of these and other types of cold depending on the climate you’re in.
Hope these tips help. Go out there and write some frigid scenes. If you have any other questions, you can comment here or shoot me a question on my contact page!