New adventures

Currently working on: Unpacking
Mood: Sandy

My parents were in town this weekend and the weather was that gorgeous secret of the Pacific Northwest: the sunny week in October. See, right before the rains close in, nature gives us one more week of glorious blue skies and balmy temps. A cruel taunt? A promise? Whichever.

So we headed up to the Olympic Peninsula for a bit of walking, then back down Hwy 101 to the Oregon Coast.

While we walked, I thought about the new story I’m working on, and it seems to me, that our hiking and my story have a lot in common.


1. The stuff

When I start a new idea, I am excited and overwhelmed by all the stuff I might stuff in the story. Secondary love triangle! BB guns! String theory!

Much like my car has five doors for stuffing, I figure my story has many, many openings to be filled. But as you can see, Monster Girl is concerned about where she will fit. So it goes with my story; I have to ask myself — fun though it might be — whether I really need a talking, one-armed octopus.

beginning2. First steps

I love the beginnings of hikes and the beginning chapters of a story. Both are so filled with promise. I feel strong and confident, with plenty of chocolate in my backpack.

The way ahead doesn’t necessarily look easy. There are barriers to be surmounted, but the adventure calls.

lost3. Lost

This part is less fun, but it seems to be true of hikes and stories, at least for me. Okay, I’m not EXACTLY lost, but there comes the moment where I definitely want to sit down, where the way seems a little more hazy and bleak than just a few steps or chapters ago.

This is where hikers and writers are made, I think. To quit? To continue? Walking out into the waves isn’t really an option (not on a Pacific Northwest beach, at least, not without a dry suit!) but I could parallel the shore on a new path.

Or build a boat of driftwood and dreams.

view4. The view

I must continue — somehow — because I know — somewhere — I will come to the point where I can SEE the point. THIS is why I am here.

5. Panting fun

I’ve said before, I love love love The End. Whether writing or hiking, coming to the end (in mostly one piece with relatively few debilitating blisters) is a great feeling of satisfaction. But the satisfaction does seem relative to the exertion. Some of our best hikes (and by best, I mean make the best stories, of course) have been the worst technical hikes. Too long, too wet, too ridiculous, waaaay too much panting. But in The End, totally worth the reliving.

Especially if there’s a little chocolate left.


Do you find a certain pleasure in some kinds of hard work? Got any favorite hikes I should try someday?

Where stories come from

Reuters news service had a story about a “vampire” unearthed from a Venice plague grave.

The story goes, because folks in the 16th century didn’t understand the decomposition process, they thought the bodies — that sometimes got dug up when adding to mass graves — might be undead.  Their evidence?

  • Hair and nails still growing (as surrounding tissues shrank)
  • Blood and other fluids from the mouth (as the innards expelled)
  • Strange noises (as bloating gases settled)
  • Shredded shroud clothes around the mouth (where mouth bacteria broke down the material)

Yeah.  That’s all it takes to get a story started. 

Because we are pattern-seeking primates, on the flimsiest of evidence, we will create a story — with characters, plot, conflict.  Even an end.

The solution to the problem of plague-spreading vampires was apparently to fill their mouths with an inedible substance.  In the case of the Venice Vampire, a brick.

But even a brick won’t stop the story.

The future of storytelling

I was reading Angela James’ article on epublishing on Romancing the Blog which led me to muse upon the future of storytelling.  Not in the e vs. print sense, but whether professional storytellers of any sort will survive the ever-expanding profusion of free entertainment.

I can spend all day surfing and never throw down a penny past the nominal cost of my weak-ass dial-up connection.  You could argue that there’s value in paying a gatekeeper to pre-screen the monumental loads of hooey to be found out here.  But once you’ve paid $8 plus popcorn a few times to see the mind-numbing dreck on most movie screens, you start to doubt that anybody’s pushing for quality even at the millions of dollars level.

Which wasn’t really my point.  (See?  That’s why you need gatekeepers.)

My musing was actually about what happens to a tribe that doesn’t have common myths at its heart.  By tribe, I mean all humanity.  Would we have common myths like the Great Flood if all of us had been plugged into our own personalized RSS feeds?  Would we have the Bible — and from thence religion — if you could have customized the chapters and printed on demand?

Would it be worse?  Or better?

Maybe it really is just about the gatekeepers.  Instead of the storytellers deciding which myths become common, maybe the listeners decide.  Maybe our written tradition, which sort of ate the oral tradition, will in turn be supplanted by the new viral tradition.  People will make their own myths, and occasionally a few of those myths will catch on.  For a microsecond, anyway.

Maybe nothing is really changing after all.