by S.J. Abraham, Author of YA, Sci-Fi,and Fantasy Worthy of the Geeks encourages you to "Embrace Your Nerdy Side!"
I never step outside before dawn
—to sip a cup of absurdly priced coffee, to stand for lingeringly meditative moments, to stare at the majesty of the Rocky Mountains as the sun rises. Nor do I sit down to write alfresco—the words flowing from my fingertips because of the tear-wrenching beauty around me.
In truth, I don’t like being out in nature much
—mostly because it makes me sweaty and tries to get on me. With luck, I’m still asleep way past dawn, and usually pass the entire day in air-conditioned, tech-assisted bliss without ever stepping outside. Colorado is utterly wasted on me.
But just because I’d rather sit in my nice office with power sockets, poop-free sitting surfaces, and lack of small stinging creatures doesn’t mean I’m not inspired by nature. On the contrary, I am regularly inspired by it, just probably not the way you think.
Nature can be more than a setting
—it can be a villain. A really good one, because nature is scary.
Get those images of serene meadows and gently falling snow out of your head. Is there anything more awesomely frightening than a forest fire? Flesh eating bacteria? Bolt of lightning? Grizzly bear?
I’m a fan of nature as a villain because it’s unstoppable. You can fight it, try to outsmart it, but in the end nature wins. Always. It is patient, brutal and utterly without mercy—all great aspects for a villain. Even if you’re not writing the sort of story that needs a scary villain, nature can add great detail to your story.
Now, I can already hear some of you saying how your story takes place in a big city or mall or space station, and that nature can’t play a role. Not true. The natural world is all around us. From falcons nesting outside high-rise offices, deer in parks, and rats in the subway, we are surrounded by nature (and who knows what an ant stuck in the space station hatch might do? Grow? Colonize? Take over?).
According to a recent Popular Science article, city-dwellers haven’t been surrounded by this much wildlife for generations. Now, more than ever, nature should be threaded into our writing.
Animals aside, you can always touch on the weather. Set a scene in a storm—there’s no need to be cliché and make it a fight—but choose a romantic scene, or a moment of introspection. Add lightning tearing the sky and rain beating the windows, and you will create an intriguing juxtaposition that creates tension.
Or, take a dark moment for your character, place them in a sunny day, and summon your character’s seeming insignificance as the rest of the world continues without noticing their despair.
Nothing clears the mind so well as nature
Use nature to your advantage in the writing process. Whether you take a walk, watch the rain fall, or scratch a snoozing cat, nature can even help you break through writer’s block. Some people recommend having a small fountain on your desk or in your office. There are lots of explanations about it creating tranquility or allowing energy to flow, but in truth, it is part of something called the Shower Principal. Flowing water gives our ears something to listen to without engaging the language centers of our mind. This allows other parts of our brain to subconsciously work on that pesky block without us realizing, often providing those eureka moments.
Likewise, scent can be a huge part of stirring our minds to creative action. If you’re stuck, step outside and focus on the smells around you—the cut grass, the icy air, the hot pavement—they all have their own unique smell. Focusing on them can free your mind to process your problems. If you don’t want to leave the blessed shelter of civilization (like me) place a small, fragrant plant on your desk. I like Lemon Thyme, but cut flowers, rosemary, or any other plant you can stick your nose into may release your creative juices.
So the next time you’re looking to create a unique setting, make a villain, add description, break up exposition or dialogue, OR if you’re stuck in your creative process, turn to nature. You’ll be surprised how close it is even for “big-city” folks, and how well it works.
What from nature’s myriad of terrifying things turns you into a simpering child? What has nature inspired you to write?
Embrace Your Nerdy Side
S.J. Abraham is a writer working towards traditional publication. He’s a geek to the core and seeks to write stories that will inspire younger geeks to embrace their nerdy side and never look back. He writes a fiction blog at geekywriting.blogspot.com
Photos copyright Abraham Stopani 2014