I’ll tell you what’s really scary. I’ll share a secret that’s seen little exposure over countless millennia, and for good reason: it’s frightening in the extreme. You probably think you know what I’m talking about, but you don’t. You can’t know unless you’re a member of… the club–the fellowship of fiction writers. The people who think up the strange and unusual, the calculated and cunning, who dwell in a particular intellectual realm where conjuring something bizarre and making it seem somehow normal is perfectly acceptable. Ah yes, now you understand; I’m talking about what goes on inside a fiction writer’s brain. <cue scary music>
Now, before you go into pooh-pooh mode, consider what follows. My bride and I just returned from a trip to northern Arizona. While there we made many of the usual tourist stops and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. (It must be true; I have photos of us smiling.) Having known the woman who willingly shares my name for nearly a half-century, I also know it is unwise to share with her the more “creative” thoughts which often blitz through my noggin like rabid, Walmart bargain hunters on Black Friday. <shudder>
We’re looking over the edge of the Grand Canyon, centerpiece of a 1,900 square mile national park. And while most folks are oohing and ahhing over the undeniably magnificent terrain, I’m thinking of ways to send some of my more deserving characters over the edge. How do I lure them closer to their doom? How do I obscure the designs of my killers? How do I provide for their escape? Could they ride the same bus my wife and I rode in on? Why not? And why couldn’t they dispatch any number of other people while they’re at it?
I’m certainly not oblivious to the needs of the victims. Far from it. I’m wondering what goes through their minds during the one-mile drop to the bottom of the canyon. Can they ride the air currents? Perhaps glide a bit and thereby make it to a non-lethal landing in the Colorado River? What injuries will they sustain, assuming they survive the splash? Who fishes them out? Or do they float downstream only to go over another edge, a waterfall, and meet their end on the jagged rocks below?
Fun stuff! We also toured the red rock bluffs and canyons in and around Sedona. They’re beautiful, wild, rugged, and largely untraveled. Consider that last bit for a moment: largely untraveled. To me, that says there could be almost anything lurking in the deepest backwater. So, what if someone went hiking back there? Maybe they get lost. Maybe they finally find a stream and go skinny dipping. Wouldn’t that be the perfect time to discover there are some seriously strange creatures living there? Like for example–oh, I dunno–a giant lizard of some kind? I can see it now. And you can, too!
I’ll save my thoughts about the high deserts, mountains, and lava fields near Flagstaff for another time. The same goes for the gigantic meteor crater near Winslow, the volcanic mountains which burst from the ground and spewed molten earth across the land, and the ghostly remains of the cliff dwellers’ homes. They all triggered ideas about potential stories or sequels to tales already done.
Welcome to my worlds.