Conduct First-Hand Research for Writing Inspiration

Places to Experience and Enjoy

By Annette Rey

My last post suggested you break the monotony in your life and get out of your house to collect new experiences and material about which to write. You can take this new knowledge and adapt it to a fiction piece, poetry, haiku, or create an article about the experience that you may query a magazine to publish.

I promised in my next post to list opportunities, many of them free, that may also be available in your area. You will be surprised at the variety of offerings that can get your writing juices flowing.

Here is the info.

Nature centers. These offer free programs that last about two hours. Many of them are geared to children. Are you a writer who happens to be a parent or a grandparent? Take that child out there and have fun. Enjoy story time under the trees, bird watching, nature walks. Come home and write about it.

Programs for adults include learning about wildlife and then taking a short guided trek in the nature area to apply the newly acquired knowledge to find the creature. In particular, a spider search (my last post), find turkey and foxes, and how to spot owls in your own area. Presented from an uplifting and fun point of view, all programs teach respect for nature’s creatures and the need to preserve our Earth’s natural environments.

Buildings on the property have colorful and interesting displays of our natural world and in some cases, a live snake or spider or turtle or two to observe. This is where you can find program schedules and informative handouts. Multiple friendly staff are eager to inform the visitors so you can just drop in and feel welcome.

After attending a presentation you can write first-hand the details of that turkey’s plumage, the hoo-hoo…hoo-hoo pattern of the night owl’s cry, the plight of the preservationist, the cold moisture that rises from the wet earth and chills your story’s lost hiker, and not make the mistake of writing of a six-legged spider that caused a character to leap to her death (spiders have eight legs).

Garden clubs. Believe it or not, these are places of great entertainment. I came across this resource by sheer accident. I found an announcement of a presentation on owls and since I love animals, I dropped in on this. It turned out there was a huge potluck lunch. Gardeners must be some of the most friendly people on Earth as I was graciously invited to partake. I was so impressed with the people and the presentation that I joined their club and I know absolutely nothing about plants!

This resource has supplied me with more writing material. Imagine the characters I can create from respectfully observing these people, interviews I can conduct, life story experiences I can collect. I can adapt all of this information into my writing. I can even learn about particular plants that my imagination may one day put into a story…a man-killing weed or a love-inducing potion distilled from a wild persimmon tree.

Churches. No matter the denomination, these places offer all sorts of events to supply writers with new ideas. From turkey dinners, to fish fries, fund-raisers for injured residents, bingos, craft sales, bake sales, spring-summer-fall-winter festivals – the list goes on. Your characters go through their daily lives. A young man meets a pretty girl at a fish fry. Your character may be the one who gets seriously injured in a auto accident and the local church puts on a benefit for him. A mysterious woman seems out of place at a craft sale and sells your protagonist a medallion with strange markings on it. A festival turns deadly when an amusement ride fails. Get the idea? Get out there and experience the sights, sounds, textures, smells and emotions that fill the real-life events so you can vividly depict them in your stories.

Fraternal clubs. These are not so private. Anyone can attend their offerings. I’m talking about Lions, Elks, Eagles, Moose, American Legion, VFWs, Optimists and more. You can learn a lot about these organizations, how and when they were formed, what their charity goals are, who the people are that are dedicated to their service. These clubs are famous for their barbecues and dances and meat shoots. For those of you who may not know, people attend with their weapons and shoot at paper targets. The best marksman is awarded with a frozen turkey or pork rack, hence they are called meat shoots. Cash raffles are often part of the day. You have to attend to observe the opposing emotions of camaraderie and competition, to smell the spicy sauce and the scent of gunfire, to hear the raucous howls of the winners and the guttural groans of the losers and to hear his lame excuses for poor performance, “my sights need aligning” and his promises of “next week, you’re mine!” You need variety and details to enliven your writing.

To write believable work you need to draw from your memories of life experiences which includes emotions and tastes and fragrances, what you touched and why, sights of mountains and alleyways, what who looked like and what kindnesses or evils he produced. You need to constantly expose yourself to stimuli to stoke your inspiration. There is more to life, and writing, than sitting at a computer screen and researching on the internet.

Get out there and live life. Then write from what you have learned.

(Next week I’ll post about what libraries have to offer.)

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