Nature is a great starting point in creative writing. Below are some easy and useful writing exercises I have put together. Let’s have a go!
Firstly, why write about nature?
- It’s all around us! Even in the thick of a city we can look up at the sky or observe a butterfly or plant pot in our window.
- Because nature can make us happy! Writing about it can help us express ourselves, or conjure different feelings.
- Writing about nature can set the mood of a scene, or suggest a character’s emotions. We talk a lot about the importance of ‘show, don’t tell’ in writing. Instead of telling us what a character feels, you can show it through the environment.
(If a character is nervous, for example, showing an approaching storm can be more evocative, interesting and economical with words than describing how the character feels.)
- Describing nature and seasonal happenings adds authenticity to a setting.
So, let’s get started…
SEASONS AND SENSES
Let’s start by thinking about the seasons. What scents conjure a summery day? What does winter feel like on your skin?
For the following exercise, think about what sights, smells, sounds, feelings and tastes you associate with different seasons.
Later you can use these descriptions in pieces of writing, and it’s also a really pleasing exercise. Win-win!
Exercise 1: Collect experiences!
a). Make a sensory table.
- Write down the name of one or more seasons, across the top of a page. (You can focus solely on your experiences of the current season, or use memory and imagination to reflect on spring, summer, autumn, winter.)
- Below the heading(s), make rows listing the five senses that come to mind for each season. If it helps, close your eyes to imagine a place. I have added an extra row for colours.
- Leave space so you can add more descriptions to the lists later.
Here is my example:
|Smells||– Flowers||– Grass cuttings||– Mulchy leaves||– Woodsmoke|
|Sounds||– Dawn chorus||– Waves||– Rustling leaves||– A raspy crow|
– Blossom on pavement
|LawnsDaisies||– Steamy cafe windows||– Woolly hats|
|Taste||– Cool, fresh air||– Strawberries|
– Coca cola
– Grass stems
|– Blackberries||– Cinammon|
– Mulled wine
|Touch||– Cold, dewy grass||– Thin cotton||– Slimy pumpkin seeds||– Rough wool|
|Colours||– Lime greens||– Blue, yellow, greens||– Brown, orange, yellow||– Grey, brown, white|
b). Zoom in!
Now go back to your list and zoom in closer on your senses. Add smells, sounds and colours that you would only notice if paid very close attention. For example:
- The scent of warm tarmac/earth after summer rain. (Smell)
- The echo of snapping twigs under a forest canopy. (Sounds)
- Winter fog over rivers. (Sights)
- The electric, lime greens of spring leaves versus deeper greens of summer foliage. Sky-blue forgetmenots. (Colours)
- Rough crusts of frost. (Touch)
Exercise 2: Get writing!
- Write a poem or piece of prose using the descriptions from your sensory lists.
Write freely, without judging whether the writing is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Later you can go back to the piece and edit it if you wish.
Exercise 3: Mix and match!
- If you want to try something extra, set your writing in one season while using the descriptions from another.
What happens if you put a summer image into a winter scene? Meadow flowers are a summer cliche, but flowers in winter give a striking juxtaposition to the cold. (Just as poppy fields make a powerful, as well as meaningful, image for November.)
Equally, the browns, greys and blues of winter would lay foundations for an original summer poem.
Note: Juxtaposition can also create a story.
Why has this contradiction happened? What will happen to the main character? If you hear a migratory bird in England in winter, why is it still there? Did it get lost? How will it get home or make new friends? See if a story opens up…
I’ll be writing about nature and creative writing more in upcoming posts. In the meantime, enjoy scribbling and let me know how you get on!