You may have heard about unplug week from Alex's blog or from cruising around and seeing that a number of people have decided to take a scheduled break in a group attempt to get some other stuff done, to focus.
Well, if you took the challenge, what did you focus on?
I did some adventuring today!
I led my brother on a hike that started with a walk over a suspension bridge that spans the width of the Yakima river. You can see the cliff faces in the photo from there. Then, we continued on by a ravine trail that climbed and fell with the mountains. My brother is as interested in the science of volcanoes as many people are about novels, so I had a good time talking about clues of volcanic activity with him: porous rocks, basalt columns, and cliff faces that slant up nearly one hundred feet because of plate tectonics.
What does the adventure have to do with writing?
1. I'm searching for details for the world in my fantasy novels: sounds, sights, smells, textures, air currents, creatures, flowers, ...
2. I'm rediscovering a sense of adventure and what it feels like to go on a journey. So many fantasy novels involve getting around on foot, mine included, so best to remember what a steep ascent up to the top of a mountain feels like. The last half a mile was enough to make my calves burn and make me breathe hard, especially when my brother brushed bake the sage and I breathed in enough of the pungent stuff to make me feel a bit high.
If you haven't smelled it, you should. It's the dominant scent up in the mountains. There's the smell of sage and the smell of fresh air. If you haven't smelled sage, I'm not sure what I could compare it to. It's dry, pungent, and pleasant. I can tell you what it does to me. It makes me realize I'm in a different place. I grew up where the air is moist, wet as a drink of water. Up here in the desert mountains the air is hot and dry. Lizards crawl around--little horny toads that look like miniature dirt dragons. If you don't know, sage can be a scrub brush that grows by your knees, or it can grow up over your head. If you brush between two bushes, in order to continue on the trail, your hand will carry the scent and when the bush swings back your senses will be overwhelmed.
If you have a good description of what the scent of sage is like, feel free to let everybody know.
3. Epic views and petite details
I climbed high enough to look down on mountains, and out across the miles to the Mt. Stewart Range, which still has snow on its jagged peaks.
I saw a caterpillar with mustard yellow dots the exact same color as the moss growing on the branch that it clung to. The caterpillar was unusual because it had many spikes, just like a cactus. About twenty feet up the trail my brother spotted a blue butterfly. So, I left the caterpillar and took a picture of the butterfly in the sage.
I think that these kinds of adventures are good for discovering details that will make a story world real. I don't think it matters what the genre is.
People have different reasons for writing. One reason that I write is to live a life worth writing about. I'd go on adventures anyway, but fantasy writing is a fun way to share observations about the physical world. I've probably cut back too much on the details. I've read so much about getting to the action and developing tension on every page. That's all good and cool, but I think that there is something quite important about characters taking the time in the novel to experience the epic views and to comment on the petite details, the meaningful stuff in our world. I think that my next novel will focus more on these scents and sounds ... and there will probably be a blue butterfly.