Baobab, Pillars of the Earth

An ancient forest of baobab trees near Morondava, Madagascar. (Photograph by Ken Thorne, My Shot)

“In the Sondhwar area of Jhalawar district, the rural people call the baobab Mansapooram (one who fulfills expectations). After Praying for a boon, a supplicant ties a small stone to a sacred red tag (lachha), which is attached to the tree; it is removed after the request has been granted…”

— From G.E. Wickens’ The Baobabs: Pachycauls of Africa, Madagascar and Australia

Hi there! I’ve been quiet a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. Well, maybe I haven’t been very busy either. Summer’s been hot and the apartment has followed suit; plus work’s been doing a great job at sucking the creative energy out of me.

Today’s inspiration sprouted from the picture first, which was included in National Geographic’s 24th Annual Photo Contest. The image of the giant trees looming over a shadowed child in the golden hues and gray-blue mists of morning certainly tells the beginning of a great many stories on its own, but research always seems to plant more seeds, so to speak. Digging a little deeper revealed the trees to be firmly rooted in a great many cultural beliefs and practices. They are believed to grant wishes and offer healing magics, sometimes requiring strings tied around their wide trunks or amulets in the shapes of the broken bones they’re hoped to mend, other times requiring sacrifice. Some show reverence for the trees by cutting symbols into their bark.

I’m not currently working in a fictional universe that includes any kind of object worship, but this certainly makes me want to! Do you have a story with a tree of life? A tree of death? A stone that bleeds? Speak up!

The Eye of The Story

Eye of a hurricaneImagine the brutal gray clouds and black specs of indeterminable debris that make up the body of a hurricane, all circling around a calm and blue skied center: the eye of the storm. These elements of the storm define the eye by outlining it. The eye is the negative space; the part of the storm that is not storm.

The elements of story do the same, circling around a common theme yet never making direct contact. Like a powerful storm, a powerful story enforces and reinforces itself by moving around this central point in conjunction with all of the other elements. Character, plot, sub-plot–everything must echo this central theme, working through it, playing with it. Eroding it and distilling it into simple human truth.

The “I” of the Story?

Examining my own stories, the eye is often a clear reflection of my life at the time of writing. Who I am, what I want, what I’m dealing with. It’s interesting how this subconsciously worms its way into our work. A form of therapy quite related to the analysis of dreams.

Working/production/joke title “Muromai and Kielle Forever” is about a boy and girl, lost far from home, fantasizing about getting back one day, not truly knowing what home really is. They cross the country only to find that it isn’t so much a place but a carefully cultivated feeling. This is something I’ve been dealing with for about two years now, having moved from family and friends in California to Indiana with my partner as she ventured into graduate school. I only just made the connection this morning waking from a dream.

What stories are you telling, and what sits at the eye? Is it you?

From now on… (a change of plans)

Okay, so, turns out I’ve been way too stuffy about this blog and it’s really killed my voice. Starting now, this will be more like a scrapbook, sometimes featuring new snippets of my writing, but most often featuring “Story Fragments” from around the web. Pieces of the world I stumble upon that inspire me, who knows, maybe they’ll inspire you, too, and we can talk about them 🙂

“An ovoo (Mongolian: овоо, heap) is a type of shamanistic cairn found in Mongolia, usually made from rocks or from wood. Ovoos are often found at the top of mountains and in high places, like mountain passes. They serve mainly as religious sites, used in worship of the mountains and the sky as well as in Buddhist ceremonies, but often are also landmarks.” -Wikipedia

I found my way to the ovoo after reading some pretty inspiringly wacky talk about “Egyptian Texts,” which offer some…alternative suggestions as to how the pyramids were built. Basically, these super zen Egyptians with a knack for “second sight” through a third eye could use telekinesis. So yeah, that’s the pyramids, stonehenge, machu picchu…

This upsets me. Why discount our ancient ancestors’ intelligence and brute/”zerg” strength? Yeah, okay, they hadn’t climbed the ladder of civilization as high as we’re at today, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have the same capacity to think as we do. Baby’s play with blocks. Human civilizations in their infancy played with huge blocks.

Anyway, this led me to cairns, which are slightly smaller collections of blocks laid out in slightly less precise fashion (generally a pile, but often stacked very intricately). Cairns are neat, and serve a multitude of purposes from waypoints/landmarks to help a traveler find their way, to places of religious ceremony/worship, to mass graves…and I’m sure there’s more. Pretty cool.

I’m currently writing a scene about a pair of four year old Gods who are forced on a rite of passage long before they’re ready for it. A cairn of some kind will make an appearance.

World Building

World building is exactly what it sounds like. It’s sitting down and writing a creation story or drawing maps; creating character sheets, inventing languages and cultures, magic systems and weather patterns.World building can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a serious momentum killer. It’s important not to be consumed by it.

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