It doesn’t matter what kind of writing we do: whether it’s personal insights or practical tips, posts about happiness or blogging, coaching or parenting, serenity or simple living, there comes a time when we need to freshen up our writing to stop our topics becoming stale. Stories, descriptions and daily details can enhance and illustrate any piece of prose. Poetic power can make our writing soar. I enjoy breathing life into my writing by indulging all of my senses and inviting in the elements.
I tend to do this instinctively because I love sensual, lyrical writing and nature inspires me, but it can be learned. My post Writing to Connect:Does Your Writing Stink? investigated preferred sensory perceptions, and encouraged you to explore your under-used senses, bringing fragrance and mouth-watering aromas into your writing. Today I’d like to share my love of the wind, of balmy breezes and fresh air. Harness the wind in your writing and you create one of the most invigorating forms of movement.
Look out of your window right now…
Even the slightest breeze will stir a leaf, make a stray strand of hair dance and flick around someone’s face. Notice what the wind does – really focus – then describe its effects; your readers will feel it on their faces as they follow your gaze and line of thought. The following is from my post Transcendental Trolleys in which I observed the effects of a gale in a supermarket car park; it’s a purely visual description because I was standing in the shelter of the supermarket .
I looked out onto the car park and surveyed a surreal scene; unaccompanied trolleys whizzing and clanging into cars, a tiny bouquet of cellophane-wrapped tulips buffeting and skidding along the road trying to take off, newspapers flying around like kites, and people batting off litter and flying brochures with their flailing hands like a scene from Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.
I saw people struggling with overloaded trolleys, trying to swing them around like rollerblading partners, outstretched arms in a spin. Others lurched for small light items snatched by the wind and watched in alarm as their liberated trolleys trundled off to freedom.
Be attentive to descriptions of winds, breezes and storms in other people’s writing.
They’re often symbolic as well as evocative and scene-setting.
I wrote the following poem to describe a powerful moment of transformation I experienced while hanging out wet laundry; it later became an introduction to my piece called Life Laundry. Blue skies and a sunny breeze can symbolise so many things. Here, the breeze evokes fresh thinking, inspiration and the promise of a new phase of life; it’s the wind that fills the sails of the ships that carry us to unexplored islands when we’re ready to let go and free ourselves of whatever’s holding us back.
Pegging out laundry
Damp and fragrant in the sun
She lifts up her face
Listens to the sheets flapping
In the breeze, surrendering
Ready to set sail
In the following lines by Randi of Foreign Quang, taken from a comment she left on my post called Rapt Attention, Gifts and Rain, I stood beside her as she showed me the vista with a sweeping gesture of an outstretched arm; I became the watcher, scanning the scene, zooming in and out with telephoto lens precision. I could see the bright, beautifully coloured kites dancing on a breeze, but more than that, because of how she has juxtaposed the images, and carefully used the phrase “grown men” I could feel the men’s boyish joy and pride, the soaring unfettered promise of moments free from the stresses and cares of everyday responsibilities. It’s a beautifully crafted piece that evokes innocence and simple pleasures, stirs the senses and recreates movement, life and dance.
What gifts would I share from my hometown? My hometown is in Iowa, so if we met there I would show you the miles and miles of lush green cornfields and let you smell the wet dirt. Then I would take you to a beautiful park on the Missouri River, where grown men fly very expensive but extremely beautiful kites; where little children roll on the grassy hills, play on the swings, and get sand in their hair; where blushing brides have their outdoor weddings under a dance pavilion canopy; where bike riders, roller bladers and skateboarders zoom back and forth on the ten mile riverfront trail; and where couples in love sit on the grass holding hands while watching water skiers send up a spray of water behind them.
Fan flames, breathe life and listen to the howling of the wind…
The following extracts, taken from Face the Fire, the third in Nora Roberts’ Three Sisters Island trilogy, show how the elements can be captured in a few deft brush strokes.
…The breeze had her hair dancing in fiery spirals.
…All around her the irritable wind swirled, snapping at her cloak until it billowed up like wings.
…So she turned from them, from the cliffs and the sea. Her cloak whipped behind her as she ran toward the lights of home.
Notice the descriptive verbs of movement, and the use of onomatopoeia – how ‘whipped’ and ‘snapped’ echo the sound the cloak makes. (I used ‘flapping’ in my own poem above.)
Notice how anthropomorphosis is used in the second quote to turn the wind into a threatening, elemental creature. Notice, too, how the colour and movement of the protagonist’s hair evoke an image of flames being fanned, and how the allusion to wings, to a creature snapping and something whipping behind her suggest the imminent flight of an elemental, ethereal creature, driven by or fleeing from the fear of pain.
Discover and recreate the rhythms of wind and movement…
Poetry often captures the rhythm of buffeting winds and gentle breezes. In Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind the visual image of the leaves being blown around is reinforced by the rhyme and the swirling, sweeping rhythm.
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing…
In To a Skylark, Shelley invented a new stanza form to replicate the swooping and ascending flight pattern of the lark on currents of air, and to echo the pattern of its song:
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Wild winds, balmy breezes and sea spray…
In the following extract from Coleridge, we can see alliteration used to brilliant effect. The image is of a ship ploughing its way through wind and waves. I can almost feel the wind in my hair and the sea spray on my face.
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into the silent sea.
The rhyming lines and internal rhymes, blew/flew, first/burst, replicate the regular dipping of the prow into the waves. The plosive ‘b’s in ‘blew’ and ‘burst’ echo the power of the boat cutting through the waves. The succession of stressed syllables with an initial ‘f’ is a deliberate and appropriate way to summon up the sound of the wind; fricatives are made by blowing out air through partly closed lips. The sibilants in ‘silent sea’ and the long vowel in ‘sea’ evoke the sensation of gliding through a vast expanse of ocean.
I could have found thousands of phrases describing the wind from many of the books and poems I’ve enjoyed, but I hope you’ll enjoy discovering – then creating – your own.
- How many words can you think of for winds?
- How many verbs come immediately to mind when you think of storms, winds or breezes – the sounds, smells, feel and movement?
- Take some time today to watch the wind or to bask in a sunny breeze.
- Try capturing a breeze or a breath of fresh air in something you write.