Writing Inspiration from a Winter Wonderland

This morning it warmed up to 3.7 degrees F before I had to take the dog out. Most mornings in winter, My Engineer Husband (MEH) happily takes her out to the “Dog Woods Trail,” where we’ve been going for the past nine years. And when I say happily, it’s because I’m happy I don’t have to go. MEH and I laugh as he puts on his four layers of pants and shirts, three sets of socks, great big winter boots, and his huge L.L. Bean parka. He assures me it’s not overboard, but I always wonder.

MEH is rarely out of town, but when he is, it falls to me to take the dog. This morning I wanted to wimp out. 3.7 degrees, warmed up from zero when I first got up. Too cold. But I don’t like to wimp out. Plus, I told myself that it would be inspirational for the fiction I’m writing; there are a lot of scenes where my protagonist, Maggie, walks outside with her dog in the winter and it’s cold…. you can see why I need the inspiration.

I pretty much had to convince even the dog to go—she’s nine and arthritic. And she was comfy in bed (mine). But the dog biscuit did the trick, and out we trudged. Me, in my two layers of pants (huge mistake not to go for four), long silk underwear (not racy, believe me) and fleece shirt, bulky down jacket, L. L. Bean boots (yeah, those same ones as in the other blog), ski mask, and hat. I took a picture with my phone but couldn’t bring myself to post it. I am a little modest. (Instead I posted a picture of my dog—she wore her birthday suit for the occasion.)

It was very very cold at Dog Woods Trail. So cold that when I breathed and my breath condensed inside my ski mask, it froze almost immediately. The inside of my nostrils froze. Abby’s whiskers froze, and she had frosty glaze on her black fur. And I had plenty of time to reflect, gather information, be inspired by, and in general observe the freezing cold morning because Abby, in her infinite dog wisdom—that we humans can only hope to someday understand—left her toy somewhere midway through the walk, and we had to turn around to find it.

Still, I’m inspired. My character, Maggie, still hates the snow and cold, and she’ll be happy when her husband Joe returns from his latest business trip. But not because the late-winter woods aren’t beautiful. They are. And the sight is incredible to see.

The snow was piled high everywhere, even where it didn’t fall—the wind shifted it to between the trees, around the rocks, and in every imaginable crevice and opening through the Dog Woods and out onto the trails and fields. The fence surrounding the parking lot had all but disappeared, with only the tip-tops of the posts to see. Maggie almost forgot the cold as she marveled at the absolute volume of snow, if nothing else. She followed the path through the woods that led her to the same circuitous trail they always took, around the ball fields, which the dog—and she—happily traced, trudging slowly where it was icy slick, being careful not to fall.

She was extra careful to step around all the piles of frozen poop that had been left by other walkers’ dogs. Or maybe by the dog with the cross-country skier, who glided effortlessly past her earlier in her walk. He meant to pick it up; Maggie was sure of that. Finally, just when Maggie wished she had worn the third or fourth layer like Joe suggested, she and her faithful companion reached the car and—none the worse for wear—headed gratefully home to its wonderful warmth.

Looking forward to your comments about my winter observations and yours as well. If we can’t get inspiration out of this crazy winter weather of ours, then what is it good for? Do you enjoy the snow or are you just looking forward to spring (or a little of each)? How do you catch a mood or feeling for writing from your character’s point of view?




  1. hilary says:

    The setting of my Shores series (The East Coast of Canada, not far from Maine) has awful weather, almost all of the time. Weather features as a malevolent character in the stories. The one I just finished, Good Will Toward Murder, features a “Weather Bomb” — just about the worst winter storm you can have. It also includes one of my characters cross-country skiing along the shore and viewing her village from the high ground. What she sees and thinks are precisely what I did when I went on that same ski several winters before. Truth is the same as fiction.

  2. For me, winter is a major struggle to live in the moment and not just wait for spring. I can appreciate the beauty of it in December and even January, but by March I get that unsettled feeling like I’m just waiting for the next thing. It’s not the best way to live . . . best to appreciate what you have now.

  3. Hilary-Welcome to an even more brutal weather sufferer! 🙂 Weather Bomb? Yikes, sounds terrible! (I need to check it out on google!) And truth being the same as fiction…I just heard a great quote (paraphrased from Mark Twain): “the difference between fiction and non-fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” I love that!

    Nina-I absolutely agree that winter is a struggle! Where’s the beauty in huge plowed piles of snow!? Not to mention cabin fever? As you say, it’s hard to not look ahead to spring! BUT I also don’t want to wish my time away. So, like you (and Maggie in my book!) I’m choosing to appreciate what each day has to offer, 3.7 degrees or not!