There are a lot of science-based ideas expressed in everyday speech. This activity challenges you to identify some of those expressions, think about what they mean, research them to find out the science behind them, and then write about some characters experiencing those phenomena or expressing the emotions they describe. You might literally put a character in a situation governed by a scientific effect, or you might use the science as a metaphor for the person’s behavior.
We often speak of people “having chemistry.” When you get to the stage in life where you start falling in love you may tell your best friend about this new love in your life that “I felt this chemistry!” They mean, they felt a strong reaction to the person, like bubbling chemicals in a test tube. People say of some couples that they are “so different,” but “opposites attract.” This is a reference to magnets. The plus and minus sides of the magnet are tightly drawn together, whereas you cannot get either plus/plus or minus/minus combinations to attach however hard you try. They “repell” one another.
People will say of someone who shows big emotions that they “erupted like a volcano.” When an audience is sitting waiting for a speaker who they really want to hear they might say, “there was electricity in the room,” or “the atmosphere was electric”. This is the idea that the room feels full of pent up electrical energy—like everyone’s hair is standing up on end, or the pressure is high, as if there is about to be an electrical storm with all the drama of thunder and lightning.
I want you to think of other expressions, like, “they don’t mix, they are like oil and water” and then do some research into the science behind the expression. Why don’t oil and water mix? What is really happening in a volcano? How do storms work, and what stages do they go through?
Choose your science-based expression, gain a clearer idea about what the science is through some research, and then use these details to inform how you set your scene and portray the motivations behind your characters’ actions. As an example, under a volcano (which might look like a big silent hunk of rock most of the time) there is a molten pool of magma. You might think of this as a pool of tumultuous emotions. You will learn that before an eruption there is usually an increase in earthquakes in the surrounding area as the ground starts to shift. We usually can’t feel these shifts, but they are important to the science of volcanos, and helpful to a writer using volcanic activity as a metaphor. What is the role of the these earthquakes, what do they mean, and how might you show characters or a situation that is about to erupt like a volcano experiencing or displaying these more or less silent signs?
To see an example of writing informed by well-researched knowledge of woodland animals and weather, read “Autumn Thunder“; or another, “The Highest Football,” that uses the idea “opposites attract” as a springboard for the rest of the story.