Use Experience to Build a Better Character

(C) 2020, JJ Shaun

Here it is Friday again. I spent the week getting my projects off the old computer and onto the new, and not a lot of time writing. I’ve downloaded a few of the games that have been sitting in the queue for a week or twelve and checked out a couple that I wasn’t able to launch on the old system. All in all, it’s been a quasi-productive week. Except I haven’t spent much time with my imaginary friends. And they’re giving me grief.

To add to the fray, it’s allergy season. My sinuses and eyes are letting me know all about that, too. But I’m glad it’s getting warm here in the northern hemisphere. Our world is turning from winter brown to spring green, and the trees are exuding pollen like it’s their job. Oh, wait, it is.

Anyway, now that it’s getting warmer, I’m getting out into the wooded bit of the property to feel what my characters experience. The spongy feel of the grasses beneath my boots and the scrape of branches across my cheek reminds me that a trek through the woods is more than just the aroma of pine needles or the sound of the wind whispering through the trees.

I still have places I want to explore. The ravine running down the north side of the meadow starts as a gully. It funnels snowmelt and rainfall into the streams that feed the reservoir and rivers that run to the plains. There’s one property marker I’d like to find, but that one will be the most difficult as it’s the least accessible.

With the temperatures warming up, it also means the snakes are coming out of their dens for the summer. Now, I’m all for having a snake around to help keep the rodent population under control. Still, rattlesnakes are native to this area, and they don’t like to be disturbed. A couple of years ago, a dog we fostered was struck by a rattler. Luckily, he survived, thanks to the local veterinary training hospital. I don’t want to find out how well I would survive, so I make sure to bring a walking stick and a revolver with snakeshot when I hike off the beaten path.

Being able to hike in a place that is almost totally undeveloped is a blessing. I can experience the forest in a way that I can only otherwise imagine a character would. My little corner of woods is not very big, nor very dense, but it’s accessible. The hillside is steep in places, but not so steep that I need climbing gear, I just scamper up using arms and legs. Sometimes I forget that I ain’t as young as I used to be.

I could probably write about what it feels like to traipse through the forest without being in the woods. But the experience of being in nature, with the aroma of pine needles and odor of rotting underbrush, the icy wetness that fills your boot as you step into a hidden puddle, or a branch that leaves a wet trail across your cheek can help bring life to your characters. That burn in your legs reminds you that a hike in the woods is more than what the environment brings. As you climb to the next resting spot, your breath becomes more labored as you struggle to pull yourself up the hillside. These are all little details that bring a character to life.

Now that I have most of my information transferred from the old system, I can catch up with what the twins and their brother are up to and update their stories. The last I heard, Eliam was looking for the entrance to a cave he spotted from a distance. His goal was to find it. I’ll be interested in finding out whether he did or not.

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