I’ve said before that inspiration is where you find it. Inspiration can even be found in adventures provided for a nearly four year old. All you have to do is keep your senses open to the world around you.
Two Fridays ago, five of us, including my granddaughter, Hannah, boarded the catboat Freedom piloted by Captain Greg Le Sieur for a two hour cruise down the Indian River. A catboat is a sailboat with a sail well forward (towards the front of the boat), noted for its “simplicity, ease of handling, shallow draft, large capacity”, and typically associated with the northeast (link). With a good wind, the roughly ten miles round trip was an experience that set my imagination reeling.
It set off my imagination for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was because I had never been on a sailboat the size of the Freedom. With such shallow draft, the motion of the boat and the experience of tacking to change direction was invigorating. Feeling the boat deftly respond to the movement of the sail made me think of other times, with sterner, stronger men setting out towards an unknown, uncharted horizon.
The river that evening was wonderfully calm and warm, so unlike my memory of the first time my father and I went out deep sea fishing off Rhode Island. The waters were neither calm nor warm. That early spring day was terribly cold and the seas were high. We were out for cod, but it was the flying fish and grown men turning green in the face of the rolling waves that I remember. It was then I first considered the conflict of man against nature, pitting intuition, skill, and guile against the pure intensity of the sea. Picture an image of the stalwart ship’s captain seeing beyond the horizon, reading the skies and seas.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, the idea that humanity has a sort of primal link to the sea and that there is something almost genetic that calls us to it. Whether you accept that or not, water is a powerful symbol in writing. The sea, the ocean ― broad, primal, untamed, unknowable ― is a wonderful setting for action, conflict, and romance. Even more, under the surface could be anything. Think Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Melville’s Moby Dick, and even Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.
Rivers, in contrast, can be dark, confining, almost claustrophobic, because the two shores are always in sight, close enough to be threatening, and seldom revealing what lay beyond. On the other hand a river can be a highway of opportunity for the interior that lay upriver. Think Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Twain’s Life on the Mississippi.
Both the Amazon River and Atlantic Ocean play prominently in the second eBook of the Any Tomorrow Trilogy, Any Tomorrow: The Curse (not yet released). I won’t give away much right now, but let’s say that it features a dark and dangerous river, high seas, and a terrible, deadly storm. If things go well, I expect to release Any Tomorrow: The Curse for distribution in early September.
So what about you? Does a river or ocean feature prominently in your work? If so, is the sea as much of a character as the people you describe? How do you use the sea in your writing? Perhaps the sea for you isn’t the literal sea, but more symbolic, such as the “sea of humanity” or the desert is a “sea of sand”.
Maybe you just need a couple of hours with Captain Greg and open water to get inspired.
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