I’d like to welcome guest poster Renee Frey! Renee has been published in two anthologies and is currently working on two standalone novels with two series in pre-development. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy for both adults and young adults. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Mike, and their two dogs: a puggle named Ziggy and a chihuahua named Megatron. When she is not writing, she makes her living in instructional design, technical writing, and teaching dance.
Renee Frey is Chief Operating Officer at Authors 4 Authors Publishing – a publishing company run by authors, for authors, blending the best of traditional and independent publishing.
When I was getting my degree, the professors drilled into us the importance of sources and references–namely, the RIGHT sources and references. There are two types: primary and secondary. A primary resource is direct from the subject at hand: the actual text, an autobiography, the source material the author used, etc. A secondary resource would be other scholastic commentary, research papers, etc.
While secondary resources are good, primary resources are the best. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at nature and how we can (and do!) find inspiration for our writing.
I am truly blessed to live in Pennsylvania, a state with thousands of miles of nature preserves, parks, hiking trails, and scenic areas. I’ll share some of my favorite pictures and locations with you, and try to give you some ideas of ways to find inspiration in nature.
Wissahickon State Park
Wissahickon State Park is located IN Philadelphia–that’s right, this amazing hiking trail is inside a major metropolitan city (with Super Bowl winners!!!). I hiked this trail a few summers ago with my dogs and my husband.
The trail follows the Schuylkill River, and has a few man made dams to control the flow of the river. The dams were easy enough to stand on to get up close and personal with the river. I even took off my shoes (guilty) to let the water cool my feet. I must warn you that the park rules say there is no swimming allowed–just in case you’re a rule-follower.
As a non-rule follower, I fully intend to return with swimming shoes and shorts to wade in the swimming hole known as Devil’s Pool. The day we were there the water was so clear and beautiful I wanted nothing more than to splash around in it!
Overall, Wissahickon was great for seeing lots of nature and really loving it! It helped me appreciate a character who would enjoy the outdoors more than I do, and gave me some gorgeous references to describe in my writing.
Hickory Run State Park
I have a thing for waterfalls. It’s kind of a life goal to see as many of them as possible. A few weeks ago my husband and I went camping at Hickory Run State Park, one of many parks in the Poconos Mountains. The fun thing with this park is comparing the man made dam to the natural waterfalls.
We hiked two trails: one to see Hawk Falls, and the Shades of Death trail to see the dam.
What I loved most about Hawk Falls was being able to walk out right next to the waterfall. SO CLOSE!!! The trail continued to the foot of the falls, with a small climb to return to the view above. I will be honest, I nearly chickened out of that climb. Good thing my husband understands my fear of heights and pushed me through it!
The Shades of Death trail required walking right alongside a little creek (my shoes got more than a little wet). It culminated at a man made dam waterfall.
I always think it’s interesting comparing natural falls to man made ones. It’s a definite resource, since they look so different, and can really bring life to a fantasy world.
Bringing It All Back
So what do my hiking trips have to do with writing? Nothing…and everything!
- Experiencing the outdoors helps me understand characters, and be able to accurately get into their head as they travel
- Seeing and experiencing nature with all senses adds extra dimensions to setting descriptions, making them real and vibrant
- Understanding nature and learning about it helps me build better and more realistic fantasy worlds
- Part of modernity is the incorporation on non-human characters–and nature can be one of those characters!
As writers, we often focus on the meat of our work to the exclusion of living and experiencing life–and taking that experience directly to form fantastic primary resources to draw upon in our writing. I encourage you to take the plunge, find some hiking trails, and explore!