Midway

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Yesterday I hit 50% on my NaNo novel “Counterfeit Horizon”. This last week has been a challenge with some real difficulty and lower word counts that I should have allowed. I think there are a number of reasons for this, but ultimately, I’ve discovered a singular solution that takes care of them all.

The first week of NaNo went pretty darn well if I do say so myself. I had an outline and some of the most detailed character sketches I’ve ever made. The plot had a road map, which, when I gave it thought, gave me a great satellite view of the story landscape. Character A started the story there and Character B began just over the horizon. The trick, at that point in the story writing process seemed to be introducing these great people I had made up and then sending them along on their journey through the story.

I had worked quite a bit of that introduction out in my head seemingly. The second week rolled over and I struggled to connect the dots. The map I had lacked detail and so every time I sat down to pound out my words I struggled to peer into the future for each character. Honestly, I started to wish I had undertaken a fantasy novel, because writing Vera kiteboarding through the Caribbean or getting Frank out of the subway tunnel without killing him would have been much easier had I been able to wave my magic wand.

After struggling mightily all of yesterday (about 400 words in a pile of hours) it occurred to me that I was starting to hate one of my protagonists, and not in a good way. He is a mixed bag of character attributes, and unlike most protagonists, he starts from the bottom and works his way up. Throughout the story the means have to justify the ends for him, which means he needs to do bad things and then feel like he has been successful.

But then, after wasting time doing battle in the plains of Azeroth, the problem became plain to me. Writing Frank had become a chore. Writing these people was turning into a chore, and I needed a way to make it fun again. Instantly, a lot of the blocks fell into place. Frank became Bad MacGyver in my mind’s eye. You are going to love to read him because he creates these huge messes and then, despite his sociopathic tendencies maintains manages to cobble together a solution (at least for himself) out of paper towels, bubble gum, and duct tape. That is some fun shit to write.

Vera, she has a traveling problem. Every time the least little thing bothers her, she takes off. ANd with the amazing technology of the future at her finger tips she can leverage these toys to travel very, very far. But hey, guess what, running away from your problems seldom solves them.

Helena is a repressed stress junkie. She is smart and a proven innovator who has become increasingly ok operating on her own, but she feels compelled to solve everyone else’s problems. Little does she realize, but this leaves her exposed and we catch her when she starting to fall apart at the seams.

And then there is Aashif, who meticulously plans everything. He wants desperately to get ahead and the drum in his soul beats out a project management cadence. Unfortunately for him, he lacks the insight necessary to deal with contingency. His plans are doomed to fail and when they do, watch out. Aashif will become the savage beast.

I’ve got to figure out a way to have fun writing each one of these people. Its critical for me as the story teller. When I do, the words just sort of pour out of me (I did nearly 2k last night in about three hours).

Ultrarunning and the Trail Running Media

I’m putting together a ruck for a trail run along the Front Range this evening.  In goes a little dried mango.  Two bottles of water: one of which I’ll probably drink, the other is there just in case.  A light sweater.  My phone.  And where are my truck keys?  Check my head lamp, are the batteries good?

Cascades in Smoke

I’m thinking about each of these things as I put them in my bag.  Thinking about them as if I were going to be running up and over a pass or beyond the horizon, even though I know that this is just a recreational run and most likely it wont exceed six or seven miles.  I’ll be in full view of the lights of down-town Denver the whole time.  I’ll probably start counting cars as they make their way along Highway 36.  This run will be about as far apart from an running an ultra as one can get.  But its still going to happen on a trail.

For me, there isn’t a lot that separates a “trail run” from an “ultra”.  Very little other than distance or time, take your pick.  If I had more time, I’d run more distance.  When I read about someone else’s epic journey, in a race or just along some trail the mile markers just serve as a reference points to anchor some segment of the story.

If there are pictures included I’d rather know what I’m looking at than the distance from the trail head or the start.  Is that a view of the mountain pass you’ll be running up today?  Yep, well that’s cool, I want to run it too.

Distance is a function of time regardless of event; if you’re racing an ultra, fast packing a trail, or just going out for a jog a story can happen.  Yes, there are people who can pack more distance in less time than I, and I say good for them.  Speed is important, but never as important as the story.  Distance can happen anywhere, but its not that impressive if its nothing much more than an odometer ticking away miles.  Don’t believe me, then ask yourself where are the epic ultra accounts from Kansas.

That’s why I run.  For the story.  Each footstep forward is another sentence in the story of that run.  Maybe it will never be told, but it unfolds nevertheless, inside my head as I make my way along any trail or path.  And just like any story, if the author places too much emphasis on one element over the others, the story itself will become unbalanced and much less compelling.

Running for a cause, along the PCT for the WTA

Do I think there is too much emphasis being placed on ultrarunning in the trail running media?  I don’t know, does it sell?  If by “ultrarunning” one means racing on trails over long distances from the sole perspective of the sport’s minority elite, well then my answer might be “yes”.  There are a few good story tellers in that bunch, but most of them are just good runners.

Trip reports, race reports, gear reviews from the hopelessly normal, even the perspective of mindful trail walkers — these are things I wouldn’t mind reading.  Share your story, share your joy in running.  You can write about that ultra race you just completed, but if it isn’t a good story than forgive me while if I glance over the first couple of lines and move onto something enjoyable.  Adding the word “ultra” to a piece of writing and expecting it to shine only works for cleaning detergents.