How trees help me write

Every day, and most especially during this pandemic, I’ve gone wandering around the woods near my house. The trees inspire me. They calm me. They comfort me. (You can still hug a tree, which is a beautiful thing.) But they also give me ideas for characters. Looking at the trees, at their gesturing branches and expressive postures, I’ve come to a better understanding of what’s going on inside my characters’ heads.

This dainty tree:


Consider this tree with its dainty leaves. They’re sort of musty-looking. Sepia-toned. They remind me a bit of some old lace I have stored in the attic. My great aunt used to tat. (That’s not a verb you use often.) But although she’s a bit old-fashioned and fading, this tree is holding onto her leaves for dear life. (There’s an actual word for that, called marcescence, but I digress.) This little tree may look dainty, but she has a will of steel. 

My point is that this tree reminded me a bit of a character in my novel, who also seems somewhat droopy, and yet is far stronger than she appears. I realized that this character would hang on even if all around her other people were doing something different. I’d thought, at first, that my character was pitiful, but she’s not. She’s just struggling against tough odds. I love it when trees (and characters) surprise you.

Then there’s this tree:

Now here’s a rock star! She’s vibrant, she’s the star of the show. But she’s also contorted. She’s turning herself in all sorts of directions to get attention. She is, in fact, quite a bit of fun to be around. But she’s also anxious, and exhausted. I feel like her name should be Stella. I’ve got a character like that too.


What’s going on with this tree?

Now this one has me puzzled. Are her arms raised in grief? Or are they twin sisters frowning down at me? Yet there’s something so playful about those spindly little branches at the top. Perhaps she’s shy and is waiting for me to take the imitative? I don’t know. What do you think? Please join the conversation at Facebook and Twitter.

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