Writers by their very nature are often solitary, and often very ‘indoorsy’. Unless they make the effort to do so, it probably never crosses their mind to feed the ducks in their local park.
It’s a great shame, because an incredibly simple act can actually have 3 benefits for their storytelling.
This post is inspired by Date 46 – Feed the Ducks or Go Wildlife Spotting from Claire Wingfield’s 52 Dates for Writers.
So how exactly can your fiction writing benefit from a nature stroll?
1) You can learn a lot from anthropomorphism
Anthropo-what? Put simply, it’s putting human qualities onto humans. We all know grumpy dogs or fussy cats.
But you can always take it further. So when you’re on your nature walk, or at the park, spend some time really observing the animals you see. How do they interact with each other?
Now, as Wingfield suggests, re-write a key scene in your narrative, but replace the characters with the animals you observed. Change their actions and behaviour to suit the qualities you overlaid onto the wildlife. Rewrite their dialogue to suit the new personality granted by the animal.
How do the characters differ now they’re aligned with animals?
This can also be a brilliant way to find story ideas, if you’re feeling blocked. Observe the way the animals or birds interact. Give each one a personality based on their behaviour. Invent a narrative based on what you see. It’s like a nature stroll soap opera. What ideas come up?
2) Being outside gives you marvellous time to think.
A lot of writers think they’re only writing when they’re sitting typing.
Writing is as much thinking as it is actually physically writing. Sometimes you just need time to think about the story, so that when you do come to write, you know what words need to come out.
Go to your local park and find a nice bench somewhere. I prefer benches under trees, but as the autumn rolls in here in the UK, I might choose a park cafe instead!
Spend some time just watching the world go by. Observe how people relate to each other. Watch animals. Listen to snippets of conversation. Keep your notebook handy and write down interesting things you hear. (I have a post about using snippets for dialogue here). You can also use this as an opportunity to observe the weather, as discussed in this post!
Alternatively, just sit and think about a problem you have in your novel. It might not even be a problem – it might just be where you want to take the story next. Let yourself be surrounded by nature, enjoying the green expanses of the park, the chattering of the ducks or the wind in the trees, and let your mind mull over whatever it is you need to write next.
When your writing mind feels ready, make plenty of notes about what you’ve discovered. You’ll have a goldmine of material at your fingertips next time you sit down to write.
3) Practice your dialogue (yes, using ducks).
Parks can give you three ways to do this, depending on what you need. The first relates to the method for working through a block.
Go and observe the animals. Feed the ducks, or watch the fish. What might they be saying to each other? Give them dialogue based on their behaviour. This is particularly good if you’ve thrown toast to the ducks (don’t throw uncooked bread as it’s dangerous for them). Watch the scuffle begin!
The second method involves one of Wingfield’s suggestions. Rewrite a dialogue exchange in your current work that takes place while your characters are feeding the ducks. Does the setting affect the dialogue? Does the dialogue reflect what’s happening, or is it in total contrast? If it’s a difficult conversation, does the simple act of tossing toast to birds make it easier to say unsavoury things?
The third method is both the easiest and the hardest, depending on how introverted you are. Feed the ducks, but use it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Obviously follow simple rules to protect yourself in case the stranger turns out to be, well, strange. Don’t continue the conversation if the other person just isn’t interested.
But just chatting to a new person in a different environment can reveal a brilliant range of snippets to be used in your dialogue. It might even give you an entirely new character that you’d like to weave into your next story!
It’s amazing, isn’t it? You can find new characters, practice your dialogue, explore your own existing characters and give yourself time to think…just by going to feed the ducks.
Over to you! Do you think you’ll make time to feed the ducks now?
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with fellow writers. Or grab a list of my top 5 podcasts, books and blogs for fiction writers below!
Keen to improve your writing?
Grab your list of my top 5 blogs, books, and podcasts for fiction writers below!