The Hole

The Hole

The Hole | Guy L. PaceThe things you discover in your travels can change the way you see certain life events. Or, certain people.

This week’s post is just a placeholder for next week. There were travels. There were discoveries.

Things learned.

It all started with a desire to find out more about my maternal grandfather.

Lee Frank Harrison.

More to come next week.

Keep writing.

 

 

Poor Choices

Poor Choices

Choices | Guy L. PacePeople sometimes make poor choices. Sometimes they turn out okay. Sometimes they don’t.

Unfortunately, our history is full of people who made poor choices and/or led others to bad ends. We learn about the Donner Party in school, and how poor choices all along their way across the West brought them to the winter camp near Truckee Lake. They took the Hastings’ Cutoff, promoted by Lansford Hastings, a poorly considered option to the well-known Oregon and California trails. Of the 87 (or 90) souls who took Hastings Cutoff, only 45 survived.

Meek Cutoff, another poor choice along the Oregon Trail, cost the lives of almost 50 souls of the more than 1,000 led across Central Oregon. Steven Meek, to his credit, wasn’t working from a complete lack of information. He d visited the Harney area during a good water year and it looked promising. When he arrived in 1845 with more than 1,000 emigrants, what he saw was the results of one or more drought years.

Meek Cutoff | Guy L. PaceBy the time the wagon trains taking the Meek Cutoff reached The Dalles on the Columbia River, 25 of their number died. Adding the Elliott Cutoff and some other changes to crossing points made the cutoff workable.

The Goodale’s Cutoff came about when “John Jeffrey began promoting a trail following traditional Shoshoni paths to generate business for his ferry on the Blackfoot River.” It got more use after the Northern Shoshone and Bannock started resisting the numbers of white settlers passing through their lands. Massacre Rocks State Park now provides some information to visitors to that area.

Goodale’s Cutoff

Goodale’s Cutoff wasn’t a bad choice. As the web site suggests, seven of ten wagons coming through after 1863 took that cutoff. The first leg of the journey through what is now Arco, and Craters of the Moon, was hard on wagons and their owners. If you’ve ever been to the Craters of the Moon, put yourself in the place of immigrants seeing that for the first time. Imagine how depressing and discouraging that landscape looked to a family in a covered wagon. The National Park Service provides more information. But, put simply, most wagon trains crossed there in full summer (July). The route was one lane, slow, and the lava beds and dry heat took a toll on the wood wagons.

There are almost always consequences to a choice, be it good or bad.

We, as authors, would like to think our main characters won’t make bad choices. They are, after all, the heroes. Right? But, if you want your hero more real, more human, he/she will make a poor choice once in a while. And, there will be consequences. Maybe not as dire as the Donner Party. Even Goodale’s Cutoff was a choice between two dangerous routes. You might not survive the one, and you might die on the other.

Give your character choices. Make them real. Add danger. Make sure the results, the consequences, fit the plot.

Keep writing.

 

 

Changes

 Crater Lake | Guy L. Pace

Changes

So much changes in our lives. About fifty years ago, I was a young man in Central Oregon. My friends and I made a huge playground of the high desert. We explored lava tube caves and the wide open juniper forest, climbed Mt. Bachelor and the South Sister, among other things. What is now a national monument (the Newberry National Volcanic Monument) was our back yard.

Where we used to hunt rabbits, bike, and hike is now filled with subdivisions around Bend, OR. Our old archery deer hunting grounds became the Sun River resort destination.

Now I must pay admission to go up Lava Butte or visit Paulina Lake. Well, I would if I didn’t have my senior pass (that was a very good decision).

Change is the only constant.

I met my brother and cousin in Southern Idaho recently, and the three of us rode our motorcycles through to Oregon, the coast, and finally to Crater Lake. In all the time I’ve lived around the area, I never got to Crater Lake. This time I did and it was the final destination we had as a group. From here, we split and went different ways. This gave me some time to reflect on our travels, the places we visited, and the sights we saw.

The pace

Some places, like the John Day area, change little or slowly. It seemed some of the farms we passed had the same horses I used to see all those years ago. The pace is slower and all the businesses are still there.

Bend, on the other hand, is so very different now. The pace is faster. Growth continues. Nothing looks the same. It takes time and effort to find the old house, the park, the high school, and some of the other places that were meaningful so long ago.

Like the characters in our stories, change is a given. Nothing stays the same for long. Prices increase and people move. Farmers grow different crops because of economic changes. New highways bypass old neighborhoods and leave the past behind. All that impacts our characters. Sometimes for the good. Sometimes not. It is rare that a place retains the nuances someone might remember from long ago.

Keep this in mind as you work with a character in your story.

Keep writing.

 

P.S. — Never explore lava tube caves alone. You never know when you need a friend to pull you out by the feet. And, take a flashlight with fresh batteries.

 

 

Small

Small is Beautiful

Small | Guy L. PaceThese days, I’m amazed at how small things can get. What used to need more carrying capacity, now fits into a small bag.

I’m packing for a trip. My sleeping bag compresses into a very small bag. My sleeping mat and pillow go into a smaller bag. Cooking and other necessities take much less space in the saddle bags these days. What required a lot of bungee cords and cargo nets in the past, now fit neatly into the saddle bags and I have more room for basic luggage and me.

In the past, touting on my Harley-Davidson softail was more complicated. Now, with all the newer, more compressed, smaller equipment, it is getting simpler. I now expect a more enjoyable journey. I’m looking forward to it.

Like the Chihuahua in the picture (that looks so very much like my little Paco from years ago), small is beautiful. Simple, little, small things make a huge difference in our lives and in our writing. Chihuahuas bring to their humans huge loyalty and great courage. What a wonderful and unexpected benefit from such a small package.

After the first draft

When we write–after the first draft of course–we should make every effort to trim the writing down to the essentials. Just those words necessary to the story. Like Hemingway, use economy, precise word choice, nuance, to move the story and the reader. In The Old Man and the Sea, Papa kept the narrative to a minimum and used his skills to tell a powerful, complete, Nobel-prize winning novella in under 30,000 words. He claims the story did not have symbolism, but was the bare story of courage, pain, and triumph.

Like Papa, I don’t need to lead the reader around the story by the nose. I let them fill in the details with their own imagination. My own Sudden Mission could have run to 100,000 words, but would have been more of a doorstop at that length. Write just what needs writing.

Keep writing (with a Chihuahua in your lap).

 

Something Happened

Something Happened

Joseph Heller (author of Catch 22) published Something Happened in 1974. I read Catch 22 shortly after leaving the military, so the theme and humor wasn’t lost on me. I thought Something Happened would be a good read too. It was a good read in a very strange way. I won’t spoil the books in case you haven’t read them.  Something Happened was–as Kurt Vonnegut Jr. called it–deeply unhappy.

something happened | Guy L. PaceBut, something did happen.

That’s the point of writing a story or novel, isn’t it? Something happened. You develop characters, settings, motivations. Then something happens.

Unlike Heller’s second novel, more than the thing happens in most of our writing and usually much earlier in the story. Short stories may have one or two things happen. Novels can have a lot of things happen. In all cases, though, there is one key thing that happens and that drives the story or plot.

In my current work in progress, the main character Amy is working and living in the community her friends, family, and neighbors built after the collapse of everything, “the Troubles.” She’s mentoring Paul’s little sister, dealing with jealousy, and working in a subsistence lifestyle. Then something happens. It isn’t the really big something happens, but it does lead to other things. She gets involved in dealing with that, and something else happens.

Gardening

Think of a writer as gardener. The gardener plants a seed. Between the soil, the moisture, nutrients, and the seed; something happens. The seed sprouts and emerges out of the ground. The writer nurtures this new life to see it grow, bloom, and produce fruit. The result depends in large part on what seed the gardener chose, what kind of soil, and if the plant got enough moisture. It also depends on the nurturing the writer pours into it.

What follows after something happens spins on your character(s). Characters react and respond in ways true to their nature and believable to the reader. That, then, takes your story to the next thing that happens. And so on.

In the end, the reader find the fruit. The reader knows that something happened.

Keep writing.