As I’m reading over my old outline, I realize that there’s quite a bit of traveling going on. Not Lord of the Rings level of travel, but definitely some down time spent in a cart, or on foot, or on some sort of traveling beast that I haven’t invented yet which is really just a weird horse. Place is important in my story and the movement from place to place is important as well. How you are because of where you’re from is fundamental to the human experience, just as the experience of being from many places, or no place at all. Whether we see a place a the root of our lives or the runway, there is a moment where that place imprints upon us its unique features. The language, the culture, the clime are influential to the individual and to the society groups of individuals build.
I made a map, years ago, and for now the map still holds. While the details of the places were important, at the time, their relationship to each other felt less so. However, as I uncover more and more about my characters, where they come from becomes clearer and how those places interact with each other will be central to the story. I feel like I’m dancing around a lot of things, trying to provide valuable information without giving too much away. It’s not that the story or its details need to be kept close, but there is that weird feeling that when I put an idea into the world, it sticks and I may not be able to change it later. It’s silly, I know, but there it is.
It’s no secret that when your working title for a book is called The Forest Book, the forest is going to play a critical role in your story. In my mind, this particular forest is a collage of places: the autumn crispness of a New England wood, the mossy draperies at the foot of Mr. Rainier, the dark recesses of the suburban copse, the last holdout against the invasion of brick and macadam. All of these forests make up this one and while botanically there may be issue with some of its characteristics, in a fantasy, the world is (mostly) mine to create. If I want velvety logs and crunchy undergrowth, then I’ll have it. But those scenes haven’t been written yet.
Travel is also important and while we don’t stay in the forest long, for at least one character, it travels with them. I think how that sense of place comes with us when we enter a new environment is interesting, like some invisible suitcase that we heft along, with only one sticker on the side that says “home.” We evoke where we’re from as we encounter a new culture or a new clime and can’t help comparing the two. For some, one is always better, depending on their love of the other. For those without the “home” sticker, perhaps every place is a potential home and embraced with the curiosity and joy that we should bring to everything. For a few, they’re just passing through, having seen so much they understand the underlying truth of the world: people are the same where ever you go.
I think, moving forward, and as a way to procrastinating doing the scene-by-scene part of my outline, I will do “Character” sheets for my places, giving them a personality, a history, and maybe some sort of goal. Even if that goal is merely to persist, each place has different means of doing so. The forest must seed itself.
- Place Name:
- Climate Characteristics:
- Boundary Places:
- Trade Routes, Partnerships:
- Main Human Activity:
- Main Environmental Activity:
- Main Environmental Threat: