Nature can be a rich source of inspiration for writing a child book. Here are 7 ways that you can tap into nature to uncover material for your children’s stories and unleash your creativity.
#1: Flora, Fauna and…
This is obvious, but you can use animals, or even plants, mountains, stones, rivers, etc. as characters in your story. They will probably be anthropomorphic, having the characteristics of humans. For example, a river that becomes angry and turns into raging rapids. You can use nature in this way to help your reader see things from a different perspective. For example, you could make up a story about the animal kingdom (e.g. an ant colony). You might imagine what it would be like to become an ant and see the world from that perspective.
Nature may also form the setting for your story. Just remember to describe only what’s necessary to move your story forward and convey your message. Don’t get bogged down in lengthy descriptions.
#2: The Four Seasons
Not the musical group but the four seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall. These could be an integral part of your story, not just the backdrop to it. The fable of the ant and the grasshopper is a good example of how the seasons can propel a story forward and be a metaphor, too. A beautiful example of how you can use the seasons as both a metaphor and a setting is the Korean film “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring Again”.
More than just the four seasons, nature is full of cycles: life and death; healing; pregnancy and birth; maturation; etc. A common theme in many children’s stories is the maturation or growth of the protagonist. The hero or heroine of the story overcomes obstacles and becomes stronger or more mature in the process.
#4: The Elements
Did you know that each element has a concept associated with it? Air = Thought, Fire = Desire, Water = Emotions, Earth = Stability. In Chinese philosophy, the elements are also linked to parts of the body. This gives you three dimensions to play around with: elements, concepts and parts of the body. The elements themselves could be anthropomorphic reflections of the different concepts and their interplay could be a metaphor for human being’s difficulties in finding balance between thought and emotion, desire and stability, etc.
The universe or astronomy (sun, moon, planets, stars, etc.) is another possible source of inspiration. The planets can be anthropomorphic characters or can be manipulated by the characters. Characters that manipulate the planets represent a theme often found in mythology and even modern-day stories such as “Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me”
#6: Nature’s Patterns
As we all know, nature is very complex, yet elegantly simple at the same time. Natural dynamics such as evolution and propagation could be an interesting element in your stories. You could, for example, explore how a creature has evolved over time (this could be a good sci-fi story).
On another level, there are also little truisms in nature. Remember when the giant sea monster threatening to devour the Jedi Knights in one of the Star Wars films gets swallowed whole by an even bigger monster? Qui-Gon Jinn, the Jedi, then says wryly: “there’s always a bigger fish.”
#7: Study and Absorb Nature
If you want to really be inspired, try just sitting somewhere in nature and observing it in all its splendor. You may discover interesting (anthropomorphic) behaviors or larger patterns. You will also become more relaxed and when you’re relaxed it’s easier to be creative.
These are just a few ways you can get inspired by nature to make up child stories. I’m sure you’ll think of more. I think nature is particularly interesting as a source of inspiration because it is awesome and powerful, neutral (with “pure nature” there is no good or bad per se), beautiful and perfect. It’s pretty hard to improve upon nature.
P.S. If you record or write down any of your stories, you can send them to me and I’ll publish them on my website with your name (and copyright) on them.
Paul Arinaga is founder of the Child Stories Bank (www.child-stories-bank.com). The Child Stories Bank provides FREE original children’s stories as well as resources to help writers create and get their stories published, and a directory of child storybook illustrators.
© 2005=06 Paul Arinaga. All Rights Reserved.