Whether you’re into city living, country living, or that in-between suburbanite, landscape is a huge part of writing. Not only is it critical for helping our readers establish physical aspects of our writing universes, but the landscape can be an inspiration for storytelling.
The first novel I sent off to publishers for consideration, Red Desert, was birthed out of a fascination with the landscape I witnessed in Australia as I toured the country and a man I saw for 10 seconds on an airplane.
I started with a poem about the landscape, asking what this man might have seen and experienced in his life as a rough-and-ready ringer (Australian cowboy). I imagined his station (ranch), his neighbors, his love story. But, without the landscape of the red desert caked onto his jeans and ground into his Akubra (Aussie cowboy hat), I would never have found his story to tell my audience.
Now, as I work on the sequel to his story for NaNoWriMo, I’m finding further inspiration in the landscape of Peru, Kenya, even the United States, and Europe as my characters travel through their world looking for the answers left untold in book one.
All through my writing career, I’ve found this same inspiration in the landscape. In my first novel, written as a fifteen-year-old, I wrote heavily based on the forest landscape in which I grew up. There’s an entire chapter in which my main character explores the woods and the creatures therein. She discovers things about herself, the critters scurrying by, the world in general, and the life she’s always missed out on because of an abusive father. All because of the landscape.
So, if you’re finding your stories don’t feel grounded in concrete imagery and sensations, consider the landscape in which your characters live. Are there forests, rivers, mountains to explore? Is there a Great Barrier Reef outing on that vacation she’s taking? Is there some kind of discovery to be made in the jungle tangled in vines? Let your imagination run wild as you explore the landscape with your main characters.