Writing 101: Enjoy the View

(This is for Day 2 of WordPress’s Writing 101 – choose a place to which you’d like to be transported at the speed of light, and give plenty of immersive details to help your readers feel what it would be like to find yourself there.

Well, there’s no pleasing some people; I can think of several very different places I like, so if I can get there really, really fast without breaking the universal speed limit, I might as well visit more than one.)

Into the Forest

The air was green, and thick with moisture. Moss coated the earth, and the fallen trees, and the standing trees – moss so green it seemed to glow from within. She wondered if, come night, the moss would light up her trail.

The damp air left her breathless and sweaty in spite of the coolness. The forest was silent, almost muffled. She met no other hikers, but once a bear ambled across the trail ahead. She jerked to a stop, but it didn’t even bother to swing its big head toward her. After a while, she moved forward again.

They had explained everything, she remembered, back when the tour group first arrived at the park. Well, at the time it had seemed like everything. The park was a simple place, really – all you had to do was follow the correct trail, and you could travel anywhere just about instantly. (As long as you weren’t too ambitious. One of the fat handful of pamphlets the rangers distributed after the orientation lecture pointed out that you would still be limited to traveling at the speed of light, so visiting even the closest star meant about an eight-year round trip. She didn’t have that kind of vacation time.)

Well, if she wasn’t going to explore the stars, where should she go? Back at the entrance, there were paths worn bare of moss with signs telling you where they led – “Taj Mahal”, “Las Vegas”, “Venice”, others – and this path, with the sign faded and mossy and illegible. So of course she’d chosen to explore this one.

She was getting thirsty. Somewhere water gurgled – over there, where a green fallen tree trunk with saplings sprouting on it bridged a gulley. It seemed wrong to leave footprints in the moss, but she couldn’t reach the stream from this trail. Slither down the steep damp slope, scoop up handfuls of water, drink – ahhh. She followed the stream for a while, clambering over mossy boulders of some blackish stone.

The stream was wider and slower now, and the banks were less steep. She pulled herself back up, clutching at saplings to keep her balance. The path had wandered off to somewhere else in the forest, but not far away was a small cabin – mossy log walls, a wide porch, a few windows, a door. A door that wasn’t quite shut.

She was tired, and it was getting dark. The door scraped along the warped floorboards as she wrestled it open. Inside was a stone fireplace (but was there anything within fifty miles dry enough to burn?), bunk beds that looked unexpectedly sturdy and almost clean, a table and a few chairs, and another door. A piece of cardboard thumbtacked to this second door said “Library.”

Library. Sure. But she might as well see what was on the other side.

She stepped through onto a balcony. Below, rows and rows of bookshelves gradually curving out of sight to the left. To the right, floor-to-ceiling windows. Beyond the windows, a park dotted with sculptures, and beyond that a city. People wandered through the park. The air here was no warmer than in the forest, and blessedly dry.

She shook her head, trying to shake the world back into something, anything, plausible. Had she dreamed the whole day? She groped behind her; something back there shifted slightly as she touched it. It certainly felt like a wooden door. Very slowly, she turned around. And there was the door in the cabin – to the cabin? whatever – peeling paint and all. There were half a dozen cardboard signs tacked to it on this side.

The top one said simply “Cabin”. The sign under that said “They told you this park lets you travel to interesting places at the speed of light, didn’t they? Here you are, and if you’re not interested you can walk home.” Just to the right, another sign read “Oh yeah, if the speed of light isn’t fast enough for you, the science fiction section starts six rows clockwise from the foot of those stairs over there.” (Whoever was writing the signs had used a piece of cardboard for this one that was too small, and the printing got smaller and smaller and harder to read toward the end.) After that, “Go ahead and stay in the cabin. Clean sheets are in the box at the end of the bunks.” And, scribbled in tiny writing on another too-small scrap, “Free cafeteria in the library basement. Hang out as long as you want to. Or find a job and relocate. Whatever.” And finally, “Enjoy yourself.”

“Thanks,” she whispered. “I plan to.”


So – could you picture the places my nameless heroine went? Can you feel what it would be like to go there? Please let me know.



9 responses to “Writing 101: Enjoy the View

  1. Wow, this is different – as I would expect from you! Very clever, would there be anyone else in the café? Until you put that bit in it felt rather lonely. But perhaps it wouldn’t be lonely just somewhere to be alone. Lovely Sharon.

    • Thank you! Yes, she’ll meet people as soon as she starts exploring the library or the park outside. And when being in a crowd gets exhausting, she can always retreat to that silent cabin in the temperate rain forest.

  2. yes but i need the rest of the story 😉

    • Okay, let’s see – condensed version: she’s going to wander around the library for a while, get something to eat in the cafeteria, wind up chatting with a few people there, spend an hour or two exploring the sculpture park with them, come back and spend the night in the cabin. She’ll spend the next three or four days the same way – she’ll collect an armload of library books and take them back to the cabin to relax with early in the morning. Meanwhile, she’s wondering if – and how – she ought to find her way home again. It might not be easy to go home; she doesn’t have enough money for a plane ticket home from the city, and since she lost the trail in the forest, she’s not sure how to get back to the park entrance. Besides, the tour bus will be long gone. (And home isn’t all that inviting; she was pretty much alone in the world, with a boring job that didn’t pay very well.)

      On the fifth or sixth day, soon after dawn while she’s sitting on the cabin porch reading, a park ranger shows up. They’re both startled. The ranger explains that part of his job is to hike around regularly and check the more remote transfer points – like the cabin – to make sure everything’s all right.

      Hmm. Now I need to think over what happens next – somehow, she winds up with a chance at jobs both in the magical park and in the city of the library; which one should she choose? She likes the city a lot, but she’s only been a tourist there so far – she doesn’t know what the bad parts of actually living there might be. The park job would feel more familiar and also make it easier to retreat to her old life, but she’s really tempted to take a wild leap into something completely new. Then again, the way she’s living right now – no responsibilities, new friends on both sides of the doorway in the cabin, all the time in the world to explore both the forest and the city – is pretty nice too.

      And I don’t know right now which life she’ll chose, or what happens to her after that.

      • Just an idyllic life really – i think she should stay and fall in love with the ranger of course who then takes her to even more remote parts of the forest and even more amazing things to see.

      • That might be exactly where the story goes – but I’d need to throw in some more complications first, make the city more tempting and the park more strange and frightening. (And also show some personality quirks of hers that she needs to change or learn to live with; it can’t be completely accidental that she has no close friends where she came from. Maybe she’s too careful. Or too likely to run away when things get challenging.) I do like that ending though – maybe I’ll try writing my first romance?

      • so when you going to write the book?

      • Starting in November, I think.

      • winter project then 😉

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