MOPNOWRIMO Revisited 3 (26/4/2012)

Avalanches. My my, what a lot I know about avalanches now.

So there’s this scene, halfway through February’s opus, in which our hero and his friends are on the run from a band of lo-tech savages and have very little by way of gear with them. They cross a snowfield and descend to a ravine crossed by a narrow rope bridge, cross the bridge and cut the ropes and voila! They escape.

However . . .

At the time of writing, I had one of them linger to set up a trap that would in turn set off an avalanche that would sweep away half of the chasers. On in particular. This was one of those scenes that I wrote at the time thinking ah well, that’s a bit of a daft way to set off an avalanche and no one will ever believe it, me included. So I’ll change it into something more plausible in the rewrites. And moved on. Which is how first drafts are made, after all. Usually I get away with it.

I have found out that avalanches usually occur on slopes with a slopes angle in the range 25-45 degrees. From my long-past days of skiing, I could perhaps more usefully reclassify that as the range Ooof that’s steep to Oh my god that’s not a slope that’s a fucking cliff and I’m going to DIE. I’d imagine that those slopes look much the same to a man on foot. Seriously, who would try to walk through heavy deep snow on a 1:1 incline with a ravine at the bottom?

Cue some adjustment to the slope geometry. And the reactions of the characters to seeing it. And how the address it. And I have to go for the lower end of the range, I think, and that means making the slope more prone to avalanche for other reasons. Like generally facing away from both the sun and the prevailing wind. Cue some more adjustment to the geometry and a slight re-orientation of the world map. And a recent heavy snowstorm. Cue some rewriting of several previous scenes which previously thought they were having some relatively balmy weather up until now. And that’s just to set up some likely conditions.

And then there’s the triggering of it. What triggers an avalanche? Wind, snowfall, a prolonged rise in temperature, stuff like that, but what I need is a specific human trigger. A bunch of people tramping across it might do the trick, but what might set it off on cue when there are already a bunch of people tramping across it? A bomb. That’s pretty much all I can find. A bomb, and no character in this scene, quite categorically, is carrying a bomb.


It “just happens”? Plausible? Maybe. Looks like a bit of author divine intervention on the behalf of his characters? Definitely, even though the cutting of the bridge serves all the necessary plot progression.

And thinking about it, an avalanche dropping my chief antagonist down a ravine just gives me the problem of WHY HE ISN’T DEAD. In fact, the avalanche a) serves no purpose and b) actively causes plot problems that I then have to solve.

Half a chapter that was. A whole day and a half of rewrite effort. Stupid avalanche. And the lesson? That pretty, cool, cinematic scene you wanted to have just because? Maybe it just isn’t meant to be there, y’know…

I did find some pretty pictures though. This is pretty close to the location of the scene in question. Only maybe not quite as big and with a ravine at the bottom…



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