Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April Showers, May Flowers, and the Role of Flora in Writing

April is "flora" month at Blood Red Pencil. Many of us have heard that April showers bring May flowers, but how about April flowers?

Depending on the part of the country (or world) we live in, we may or may
not have the opportunity to enjoy early spring flowers in April. Whimsical
weather that time of year, as well as opposite seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres and the length of those seasons, dictate when (and if) such flowers will grow in our climate.

Flora—the term encompasses all plant life—has played a significant role in both literature and song. We have "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," "The Rose," "Edelweiss," "Green, Green Grass of Home," and these are but a few of the musical tributes to flora. Poets, too, incorporate plant life in their works. Consider "The Daffodils" by William Wordsworth and "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer." Then there are the books: Wilson Rawls' Where the Red Fern Grows and Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.


Flora provides a touchstone most people can relate to. This makes nearly all varieties fair game for the writer. Trees, flowers, grass, wheat fields in Kansas—they all create images in the minds of readers. When a book mentions a rope swing hanging from a maple tree or a snowball bush at the side of Grandma's house, imaginations swing into play. Colorful autumn leaves spark many memories. A blooming cactus, well described and significantly related to the story, can carry a reader who has never visited a desert down a path of discovery.

The covers of my first two books depict roses. While not all my novels will be wrapped in flora, these two roses play important roles in the stories behind them. I found it very interesting when writing them that the flowers, even better than words, could express the emotions of certain characters.

Do you use flora in your writing? If so, how do you make it move your story forward? Do you believe it's important for the cover to have relevance to what's inside?




Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and thriller. You can contact her at LSLaneBooks.com and DenverEditor.com.

11 comments :

  1. The challenge for me is to describe the flora without resorting to florid descriptions. When is it best to assume everyone knows what a specific tree/flower looks like and when do you add adjectives?

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  2. Perhaps using the senses in addition to sight will help. The sweet scent of certain flowers, the color or blossom size of others, the season in which they bloom, the feel of the petals or the leaves, the prickliness of rose thorns and cacti, the buzzing of bees as they hone in on a fragrant honeysuckle bush, the changing color of leaves in autumn and their ultimate fall to the ground——all these can be related to human emotions to support a story line or express the feelings of a character. Adjectives work when describing flora if not used in abundance and if relevant to the story or character. Simile and hyperbole can make good use of flora: sturdy as the mighty oak in the back yard, words as sweet as the scent of lilacs in spring, dropping like fall leaves in a windstorm.

    Realistically, not everyone will be familiar with a flower, tree, grass, etc., we may use, so we can provide enough description to justify its presence without boring those who know the particular flora well, perhaps noting height, color, trunk size, etc., again, as it relates to the story.

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    1. I gave examples of similes, but not of hyperbole, which is extreme exaggeration. Here are a few: He was as big as a barn. Her clothes lines went on for miles. The size of her head would never have allowed her to get through the door of a millinery shop. The list of his accomplishments would have filled an entire library.

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  3. Mention of flowers can set a mood, paint a picture, bring back a memory. I love the cover art on those books, Linda.

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  4. Flora and mood definitely go hand in hand. I remember my grandmother's garden from my childhood, which was almost 70 years ago. It's as though I was there yesterday. The beautiful snowball bushes outside her living room window were just as memorable. Glad you like the book covers. :-)

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  5. Nice post, Linda. When this monthly subject came up I thought I had nothing to say about it. Then I read your post and Diana's and, yup, got the subject of my post.

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    1. That was my first reaction, too, Polly. Then I remembered that flora are flowers, trees, grasses, weeds, etc. These things occur regularly in my stories, and flowers (roses and orchids in particular) play a major role in my first 2 books.

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  6. I love this point, Linda: "Flora provides a touchstone most people can relate to." I've not considered plants/flora in this light, but will from now on. :-) When I bring up plants in my books, I try to keep in mind the POV--whether someone who knows their way around or someone who says, "Green? It's alive, I guess." ;-)

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    1. Flowers can congratulate, comfort, intimidate, etc. In my first novel, they warm the heart of one recipient and terrify another. Depending on the character, of course, they can fit right into the plot and enhance an emotional response.

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  7. Very interesting post, Linda, and you bring up a lot of points I had never considered before. I don't use many references to flora in my stories, and I don't know why as I love flowers and trees and all things green and growing. Most of my stories are hard-boiled police procedurals, with the exception of a few short stories and one woman's novel.

    I love the cover of your books, and I do think the cover should be relevant to what is inside. Ironically, one of my books has a rose on the cover, with petals falling off it. It's the cover of Play It Again, Sam, and the rose falling apart signifies a relationship falling apart. I am really proud of this cover. It was designed by my daughter who is a graphic designer. She did it for a college class project, and it eventually won an award for cover design.

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  8. How cool that you were able to use your daughter's art on your cover! I really like the symbolism of the petals falling off the rose, signifying the death of a marriage. Your post inspired me to buy the book, which now resides on my Kindle. I can hardly wait to read it! :-)

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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