Where Do Your Characters Sleep?

With NaNoWriMo just a few days away, here is one thing you could mull over before you dive into your writing like a crazy person during November: Where do your characters sleep? Think of this as part of the setting category of your writing.

We all recall our own teenage rooms with pop-culture posters and such. We are familiar with our coordinated visually pleasing adult bedrooms. But perhaps you don’t write contemporary.

This week I was reading of ancient Icelanders who lived in long, narrow sod houses, with one way in or out. The “master bedroom” was the one furthest in mostly because it was warmest, but also most private. The children, workers, guests, etc., slept two per bed along the walls, and they slept head to foot because it conserved space. I tried to image it, and first only came up with cold feet on one hand, or stinky feet on the other.

In the book Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All, we read how 14-year-old Lucy’s 50-year-old husband was so large, he slept diagonally on the narrow bed. She curled up wherever she could.

Have babies always slept in cribs? Where do they sleep today in rural China? A village in Ethiopia? On a Pacific Island?

In one of my books, I have people camping for a few weeks. This is not difficult for me to imagine since we were tent-campers for about twenty years. Write what you know. But my characters don’t even have a tent! Oh, that’s right. I’ve slept many a night outside with no tent myself, which is lovely, or exciting, like when a big, fat raccoon walked over me in the night. However, tent-camping or tentless-camping, I could quickly get to civilization and any amenities in short order, where that is trickier for my characters.

I think of cowboys who herded cattle from TX to the railroads up north, sending the cattle on to the packing houses in Chicago. (BTW, most cowboys were black-skinned, which is neither here nor there, but just clarifying history from those western actors of the ’50s.) A cowboy on trail usually wore one set of clothing for the two-week drive. He slept in his clothes and had a single blanket as a bedroll. That’s it. Hard ground. Single blanket. No pillow. Oh, and he burned his clothing at the end of the ride. Go figure.

So I reiterate: Where do your characters sleep? If it’s in a building, what is the furniture in the room? Pictures on the walls? Air circulation? Others the room? If it’s in a tree, what sort of tree and what additions? Cave? Woods? Seaside? Picture it. What sounds are there?  Furnace humming? Wolves howling? Mosquitoes buzzing? Hold it. Visualize and listen to it 360 degrees.  Doing it now means next week you will be ready to write it all up during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Whole Book Revisions

I have a book which is half done-ish at 50K. That is, I’ve completed the rough draft of one of the character’s POV, with lots of hours of revisions and rewrites already done to it, which also means the word count fluctuates as I add or delete. I was going to start in on the other character’s POV. I mean, I already have done that with 18K down, but decided to hold off until NaNoWriMo in November to completely rewrite it and add a bunch of twists and complications. It is so hard to wait when all I want to do is write. In the meantime, until November 1st, I am doing a whole book revision on the first guy’s story.

Some of my writer friends love revisions as the best part of the writing process. Perhaps that’s because the story line is done, the characters already developed, etc. Revision means delving into both the big picture and the micro (even down to a single word use) picture. To me, that’s like wading knee-deep in mud. That said, I really, really like my completed revised drafts. I just whine pitifully all the way there. And these are just my own personal revisions, not an agent’s or editor’s input.

I’ve got Darcy Pattison’s shrunken manuscript workbook next to my tiny-print manuscript and go back and forth and back and forth between them. I’ve done the “simple” tasks of marking strong chapters, boxing off scenes, etc., and can’t help but also do some micro editing. Sorry, Darcy. I know. I know. Big picture first. And so much think-time! They never teach you that in writing classes/books. There’s so-so much think-time to writing a book.

After I do this particular whole book revision, I’ll then print it off again and mark any major, medium, or detailed changes still needing attention. And then print it off again for another look-though.

You would think I would be content doing whole book revisions. I mean, it is writing, after all, isn’t it? Well, in fact, no, it isn’t. Revisions are a part of the writing process, the part to make your story stronger, to plug up those plot holes, to make your characters more loveable…or more hateable. Whether I particularly like this bit of writing or not, it sure will fill my time for the next five weeks. And then–hurray!–I can start in on a new story which has been teasing me ceaselessly to pay attention to it, which is actually the other side-of-the-coin story.

(All right, Sandy, quit writing all these fresh words and thoughts and get back to work already! Revisions-ho!)

National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Oregon Trail – Register Cliff)

Tomorrow – yes, tomorrow – is our National Parks’ 100th anniversary. (And all National Parks are free admission for four day. Happy birthday!)

Although not part of the National Parks System, I felt the need to include in this series some shots of Stu Patterfoot along the Oregon Trail in Wyoming. Because it’s history. Because it’s Stu. And because it’s so interesting.

During the mid- and late-1800’s, wagon train emigrants stopped overnight along the nearby North Platte River, and many recorded their names and dates in the soft limestone bluff, which has come to be known as Register Cliff.

Registration Cliff is a rock face where travelers could record by carving into the soft rock that they had made it that far. But today if you try to record that you, too, have passed that way, you’ll be arrested for vandalism. So acknowledge the history, sense the history, look at the history, but don’t touch. The near-barren landscape (trees only grow because of the nearby river) gives one a desolate feel of what early emigrants may have felt.

Most impressive (to me) at this spot was the worn rock made from thousands of wagon wheels heading for a new life further west. The sides of the prairie schooners must have scrapped the walls as they passed through here, with each wheel cutting deeper into the rock.

There are also thousands of cliff swallows guarding the wall. (Look above Stu’s head on the Register Cliff sign.)

As you write your stories, visit your settings. See the flora and fauna, and smell the history. Gather hundreds of ideas for future stories. Keep on writing.

 

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Jewel Cave National Monument)

Six more days until our National Parks’ 100th birthday! What awesome places to visit, for  anyone,  but especially for writers and illustrators. There are ideas at every turn, every look.

Here is Stu Patterfoot visiting Jewel Cave National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There are about 1,000 acres of land on the surface with woods, rocks, and animals, with hundreds of miles of tunnels and passages below the ground. You really don’t know the term “pitch black” until you are deep in a cave and the lights are (intentionally) turned off. Even when experienced, it’s difficult to describe.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota)

In celebration of our national park’s 100th birthday, here is Stu Patterfoot at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Bison and wild horses roam the park. It was here in a parking lot, where I overheard a man asking a park ranger if he could put his granddaughter on the back of one of the bison walking though the lot so he could take a picture. I was very impressed by the young ranger’s calm no and explanation why not. Me, on the other hand, standing behind the grandpa, had popped open my eyes at his comment and dropped my jaw to the pavement. It would have taken me he’d asked that question, it would have taken me several minutes to respond.  But then grandpa complained that the animals weren’t fenced in and why did they let them roam around if they were so dangerous? Well, they are fenced in, only the fences are miles and miles long. So: No sitting on the bison! Really. Don’t even get close. (In the photo below, Stu was only this close because he was inside a van. See the side mirror over his shoulder? Yeah. Don’t get close to wild animals. People are gored every year.)

Inside the park, it’s not just the animals, nor the human history of the area, but also the land itself. Just when you (I) think you’ve (I’ve) seen about every rock formation in the world (across these wide and varied United States), along comes an interesting sight. Take a gander at the size of this perfectly round naturally formed “pebble”.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Cumberland Gap National Historical Park)

In celebration of our national parks 100th birthday this month, here is Stu at the historic Cumberland Gap (National Historical Park).

This is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountain Range giving early American frontiersmen (and women, and bunnies), a Wilderness Road to “the West” (i.e., Kentucky and beyond). It is located near the conjunction of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.

(Also, naturally, American Native Indians lived in the area long before the white man showed up in history, and were familiar with the gap’s secret.)

Cumberland Gap also played a part in the US Civil War, but alluded any battles.

Today you can hike the old Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap, but the wide and long tunnel for cars makes the journey far shorter.

As a writer, merely sitting in locations where I know much history took place is inspirational. Where are your inspirational spots?

 

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Wind Cave National Park)

In honor of our US National Park’s 100th birthday later this month, here are some shots of Stu Patterfoot visiting Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. This was the first cave in the world to be named a national park. (Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt.) The park is nearly 34,000 acres on the surface with plenty of wildlife, but below ground it includes one of the world’s largest cave system. It is famous for the calcite boxwork formation which is quite rare and stunning.

Visit our national parks this month.

P.S. Towards the end of August, all national parks will be free for four days!!!!

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Blue Ridge Parkway – US National Parkway)

Here is Stu Patterfoot along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Parkway maintained by the US Parks Service. The road passes through several states. These were taken in North Carolina.

When I was a child, my father drove us home for a bit on this road. It is windy, hilly, and the speed limit is 35-45 mph. My father could hardly wait to find a way to exit it, curing the entire time because he couldn’t go fast. Decades later, my husband and I visited the Parkway. We savored every moment on the windy, hilly, gorgeously scenic road and did not want the journey to end. Stu Patterfoot liked it, too.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Rocky Mountains National Park)

In celebration of our National Parks Birthday later this month, here is Stu Patterfoot in Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado.

The park is enormous, and two photos can hardly capture the millions of places to stop for photogenic moments. Rocky Mountains National Park is an awesome landscape for fantasy stories, especially when you hike back into the wilderness (on trails) to when you can see or hear no sign of human life except for yourself (and companions).

Oh, and summertime is the best recommended time to visit, as some roads may be closed in the snowtime.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore)

In Celebration of our National Parks Birthday which turns 100 on August 25th, here are shots of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is named such because if the dells rock formations along the Lake Superior coast, but there are also the dunes to climb, the many, many waterfalls to hike through woods to see. Blues and greens. The water is very clear. Greens and blues and clear. And lots of water in many forms.

Granted, these are summer shots, which is a great time to head north to this national treasure. If you go in winter, you would have another wonderland scene, but the predominate color then would be white-white-white. Also, mind, that although the water looks inviting, only if you are of polar bear descent should you attempt a dip into cool Lake Superior – any time of year.

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