Writing prompt: what’s in the swamp

It’s been an intense week doing final edits on Book 1, so this week’s blog is an exploration into the swamps that haunt our forests. The photo was taken in a provincial park in southwestern Ontario, just as leaves were starting to put on their colours. We came upon this weed-strewn marsh where nothing seemed to be moving or making any sound.

Now there are those of you who might see this image as a pretty artifact of the woods, something to enjoy on a pleasant walk through nature in the early autumn, and of course it can be taken that way.

But there are some of us who see the eerie possibilities in how well this would work as a fantasy or horror setting.

The mire appears to stretch endlessly, dark murky pools drowning the roots of lifeless trees. What are they? Is there anything that crawls through the waters, perhaps only coming out at night, when it won’t be seen as it slowly stalks its prey? Perhaps something seeks refuge in an abandoned tree, making its home inside a hollow trunk, hidden amid the remote woods where no one or nothing will think to look for it. Or could it be the trees themselves that are the unsuspected menace?

It’s up to your imagination to spin the tale of what goes on in the swamp when no one’s around to see it.

All photos are by me unless otherwise specified, and all rights are reserved. E. Jurus

(P.S. My hubby and I escaped alive — or did we?)

Writing Exercise/Inspiration: What’s at the end of the path?

All paths lead somewhere – otherwise they wouldn’t exist. But when we can’t see the far end, they become mysterious, enchanting, beckoning. We’re tempted to explore them just to find out where they go, even if it might lead to disaster; it’s our nature.

What lies at the end of this allée of dark trees? I’ve deliberately posted the photo above in black and white, with the end of the path obscured, to encourage your imagination to run wild. Is it an equally dark castle, hiding a monster, or a treasure at the end of a series of fiendish traps? Is there a mysterious lake, smooth and undisturbed on the surface, but with something odd in the depths? Perhaps there’s a maze, or a portal to another dimension, or a strange and twisted garden. Or nothing – maybe the rest of the world has disappeared.

As writers we endeavour to avoid clichés and formula plots. There may be a finite number of basic plots, but that doesn’t mean we should lead our readers down a path that has an easy-to-spot ending – what would be the fun in that? Let’s take our readers on a unique adventure, one that they’ll want to read more than once.

My only caution is to let the book’s path branch out in ways that are logical to your protagonist’s journey, that make sense for the plot and move it forward to its great climax. Don’t throw something in because it seems ‘cool’. Readers can always spot a cheap trick. My suggestion is to let ideas pop into your head naturally, no matter how off-base they might seem at first – then follow them a ways to see if they might offer a really interesting direction for your plot to go in. Even if you end up nixing them, jot them down anyway in case they might work in another book (maybe a spinoff?).

So what do you think lies at the end of the path through the trees? I invite you to share your thoughts with my reader community.

All photos are by me unless otherwise specified, and all rights are reserved. E. Jurus