I love trees—especially in the evening when the sun is low in the sky. And the play of light on the intricate symmetry of limbs and leaves reminds me of writing. Let me explain.

When likening my story to a tree, I begin at the base, sometimes in the light or sometimes in the dark. As I progress upward, leaves appear. Since I write romantic suspense, these would be clues or details necessary to move the story forward. Lower limbs are additional characters that are necessary to my protagonist’s journey—just as these branches help me climb the tree. They also add balance and interest—one is her love interest.

As I travel up the sturdy oak, I move from light into shadow and back into light—much like my heroine encountering her inciting incident and responding. In my stories, a dead body is usually involved, and the search for a killer begins.

Things become complicated when I reach a fork in the trunk of the tree, a point where I have two viable suspects. Which path will lead to the top and into the sunshine? I follow the tangle of limbs to the right. Sturdy and bright, the bough looks promising. But soon, I find myself deeper in shadow, the branch broken off in a jagged edge. My protagonist reaches a dead end.

A fork in the tree presents a problem.

Which way? Right or left?

Back at the fork in the tree, I climb to the left. I move from limb to limb, higher and higher. A branch breaks under my weight and I fall a few feet to the one below—my heroine is attacked.  I encounter a snake and must knock it to the ground. Another brush with death.

At last, my head breaks through the leaves at the top of the tree. The late day sun warms my face. My heroine triumphs and finds true love. (Remember I write romantic suspense.)

And my story is ended.

Have you ever seen something in nature or otherwise and thought it a good representation of how a story is constructed?