Having plotted stories on trails from the east coast to the west coast, over a span of twenty years, I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of a good walk in the woods to get the plot ideas flowing.

It probably helps that most of the stories I write have at least one scene set on a trail over mountains or between neighboring frontier cabins, so there’s always a research element involved in hiking for me. But I think it’s more than that. There’s something in the purely physical activity of hiking–breathing clean air, getting the blood pumping–and the inspiring scenery and wildlife encountered, that gets those creative juices flowing. By now I’ve trained my brain to go exploring down a maze of story paths as soon as my hiking boots hit the trail.

Brian and our old dog, Hiero, on a trail in the Cascades, one snowy spring

Sunday after church my husband, dog, and I drove out to one of our favorite mountain lakes on the Rogue River. We hiked to Blue Grotto. It’s a five mile round trip, or near about, and it was the warmest day we’ve had so far for hiking this spring. I’m a hot weather wimp. Let the temps get much above 70 and I find steep hiking a slog. Sunday’s afternoon temperature was right on the border of what I can handle, which meant I wasn’t talking much as we hiked, which meant my mind was wandering down its own paths. And a few knotty plot issues for the upcoming chapters in my WIP got themselves untangled.

I now know:

~ who kidnaps a certain character, and how that character gets away.
~ how two characters are introduced earlier, when I need them to be
~ how to correct the present problem of my antagonist having fallen out of the story for too long
~ who the third POV character is going to be, and why
~ that ring that popped up out of nowhere in a recent scene, complete with a history that caught me totally by surprise, has an inscription on the inside of the band. I wonder what it will say?

This ring is like a character that pops on stage unexpectedly and insists they have an important part to play in the story. Generally I let them stay, though they can be hard to manage. But when they (in this case it) fit so perfectly, it’s reassuring to a writer. To this writer. It gives me the feeling that this story exists already, somewhere in my soul. Like a vein of ore hidden beneath common old rock, that I sit here each day and chip away at. When story elements like this ring coming spilling onto the screen, unplanned, but right, it feels like striking gold.

All that, and I got great exercise too. And spent time with my husband and our dog in a beautiful setting, and incidentally was reminded that whenever I have my character trekking over mountains or along rivers or through woods, I need to have them dive-bombed by pesky droning flies and bees on a fairly regular basis!

So what’s your favorite non-writing activity in which you actually are writing, just not obviously to the untrained eye?

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