“Travel opens your heart, broadens your mind and fills your life with stories to tell.” – Paula Bendfeldt
I’m sorry for the unannounced hiatus from my weekly posts. I hope in the interim you had a chance to implement some strategies and ideas from my previous posts. If you didn’t, well then I hope you enjoyed your time off as much as I did. I promise that I had a good reason for missing out on my posts. I went on an adventure fantasy writing research trip to improve my world building.
This research trip has been in the works for over a year now. I began the planning with Jace (Spartan Smackdown friend), and to be honest with you it only became a “research” trip about a month ago. Before, it was simply a 100 mile backpacking trip across the Uinta Highline Trail.
I embarked on this trip with the aforementioned Jace, his brother-in-law Chad, and his lifelong friend Spencer, oh yeah and my trusty doggo companion, Koda. Jace’s dad was kind enough to shuttle us to the Eastern Terminus near Vernal, Utah to begin our epic journey.
I’ll do another post that really goes in depth on the trip, the planning, the preparing, and the execution, but for now I want to share a few things that I learned on this world building research trip.
Often stories will time jump through travel scenes in their book because for the most part it’s just slogging along one step after another. But when authors do tell the stories, so often the weather is just there, it exists, but it doesn’t play much of a role in the story. Impacting your characters through the weather can give you amazing opportunities to show their personalities and attributes.
The very first day we hiked through rain on and off throughout the entire day. In the moment it wasn’t the worst, but that night at camp was absolutely awful. All but my light sleep clothes were soaked through, my shoes were drenched, therefore my feet were a wrinkled uncomfortable mess, and being a tall skinny stick, I was sooo cold.
The next four days were beautiful and sunny. While everything was able to dry out, except for the marshes we hiked through, having sun all day every day caused its own issues. Sun burns! Thankfully none of us received anything unbearable, but still, we experience various levels of discomfort and that affects moods, and interactions between characters.
Don’t let your characters walk through sunny and 75°. Let it rain non-stop for two weeks and have them experience SAD. Throw some sleet in there, a little hail (we did get this on the last day), lightning and thunder, or cook them in the heat of the summer (maybe they have to travel in the early morning or evenings to avoid the most intense heat).
Here’s a fun writing exercise if you aren’t sure how the weather will affect your story.
I now understand why most fantasy stories give their characters horses while they travel. GEAR IS HEAVY!!! Hiking all day every day for a week with food, some water, clothing, camping gear, and all the little accessories you want is not easy.
Even a hard working farm boy will have some struggles packing everything he needs to journey on his pack. But somehow he takes to it with ease, never rolling an ankle, rubbing shoulders raw, nothing. It’s a miracle.
Even with only one change of clothes and all my specialized lightweight backpacking gear, plus food and water, my pack weight was 44lbs (yes there are things I could do to reduce that, but I’m that hardworking farm boy I spoke about).
Now I want you to image the following packing list.
- Wool cloak (he’s not actually going to wear it all the time)
- Cooking gear (not aluminum or specially fabricated material)
- Sword/Dagger/Bow – The bow is the lightest, but that sword 2.5 – 4lbs.
- Some kind of camping pad, sleeping roll – I doubt it will roll down to te size of a water bottle
- Tent – unless of course they hike where mosquitoes don’t exist and the weather is never a problem
- Food, Water – 1L of water weighs about 2.2lbs.
I could go on, but you get the point. If these guys didn’t have horses their gear would be extremely heavy. Or they are just suffering every night when they try to sleep.
Of the three things, this is always something authors do well with. They do show how characters respond to one another after being in close company for weeks or even months on end. Characters are developed through the conversations they have, who they choose to talk to, as well as what they say. Characters also shift around and talk to various members of the party.
There were only four of us on the trip, but throughout the day our hiking order was constantly changing. Often it would become a two two split which allowed for new conversation topics and interactions between us. Originally we thought it was just going to be Jace and I, and while I have no doubt we would have had an amazing time, it was a lot of fun to get to chat with the other guys along the way.
This trip was absolutely amazing, and I might do it again someday, albeit a little bit differently. I definitely plan on doing more backpacking trips, sorry I mean adventure fantasy research trips, in the future.
If you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to the newsletter so you can get weekly updates via email. From this world building trip I’m working on a short story which I’ll be releasing pieces of over the next few weeks.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde
Book Review – I finally read it. Hatchet – Gary Paulsen