Since I was in high school, I’ve found inspiration in how natural light plays across landscapes, whether it’s sunlight or moonlight. When the light catches my attention, I imagine what kind of a scene I could set in it. I’ve incorporated this sensitivity to natural light in Rae Riley, the main character of my short story “A Rose from the Ashes”, and my WIP, A Shadow on the Snow. Rae is an amateur photographer, so I can work in descriptions of natural light works in a way that is believable for my character.
Below are list of ways you can use natural light as inspiration for your writing.
Golden summer evening
Everyone has experienced how wonderfully relaxing a summer evening bathed in golden light is. It seems like the perfect setting for a low-key conclusion to a story. That’s the setting for the last chapter of my first novel. Since I doubt that novel will ever see the light of print, I’m hoping to find a way to recycle this setting in another story.
This kind of sunrise seems like a good setting for an upbeat ending to a story. It also makes a powerful contrast if most of you story has taken place at night, especially if the action has been harrowing for the characters. I’m a sucker for stories that take place during the course of one night. A glorious sunrise may be the best way to end it.
If the day doesn’t start bright, it seems to be a harbinger for a bad day. A cloudy sunrise could kick off a story, foretelling that things won’t go well for the main characters that day.
Bright, clear day
My mood almost always lifts when the humidity is so low that sky is clear of clouds and at its most brilliant blue. It seems like a day overflowing with possibilities. A great way to start an adventure. Or I can use the day as a counterpoint. My main character wants to get out into the gorgeous day and is trapped inside with work or some other obnoxious duty. My plot could be about how she schemes to escape into the beautiful day.
Unusual weather circumstances can affect the light strangely. One spring morning when my kids were small, I woke up after my husband had already gone to work. The blinds were drawn in my bedroom, so my first view of the day was when I stepped into my living room. I saw the morning sky was yellow. My first thought: TORNDADO! Immediately, I turned on the TV and found out that severe weather was passing. I can’t remember if the storms produced tornadoes but we didn’t experience anything more than normal thunderstorms.
Unusual weather like the yellow sky calls for dramatic action. My main character could be struggling toward a goal and a storm can be an obstacle or the symbol of obstacles he must over come. Or it could be the backdrop for the ultimate clash between two strong-willed characters.
Another unusual condition of natural light is during a sunset when most of the sky is covered with clouds but there’s a break just above the horizon. When the sun reaches this clear strip of sky, the light seems to get funneled between the clouds and land, creating searing light and deep shadows.
Such harsh light seems appropriate for a climax in which the characters learns the ultimate truth about themselves or the situation they’ve been living in.
Click hear for my post on how to use moonlight on a full moon night to inspire your settings.
How would you use natural light as inspiration for your writing?