Friday, February 3, 2012

The imagination at work

As a 'pantser', I never plan in advance. I just let things happen and see where it takes me.

This next scene was certainly the case. Well, it started in the previous scene with Komil saying the deer were shedding. Up until this point, I had been sticking closer with Inuit mythology/lifestyle, but because I had also been reading myths from Norway, Siberia, etc, suddenly deer appeared in this story. In Siberia today, there are still nomadic communities that own herds of reindeer and believe they have a symbiotic partnership: the deer grant the people the right to eat them and use their fur/etc in exchange for protection from predators on their migration routes.

Yes, I did grew up next-door to several farms, but they were small ones. 10-20 acres. One did raise meat cattle, but it was essentially just a 10 acre fence- in treed area for them to roam around. Not enough cattle to even bother tagging or branding. The only time I was ever on a farm that actually tagged cattle was during the year I lived in Alberta, and those were all microchip tags, no branding.

I wrote this scene with no real knowledge, just my imagination. I have pushed through herds of closely-penned cattle/sheep/etc before and know they're so used to other cattle/sheep shoving into them, that they really don't care if you're there unless you start behaving strangely or shouting or something. They're pretty low-stress animals as long as you're confident, and I figure deer, since they're also a herd-animal, would be similarly minded.

None of the cultural information in here was pre-planned either. I knew the basic idea of where they lived, how food would work, all the big-picture kind of stuff necessary to live... and then just started writing. I think what I find most interesting about folklore/etc is that the land/animals/etc pretty much is where stories and culture begin. Desert dwelling people will see the world in a completely different way than jungle dwelling people, or sea-faring people.

Which is why I always start with the land and let it influence the stories/cultures that could come from it. I ask, what sort of creatures live here? How does weather influence the ability to harvest food? What kinds of arts would they have and technologies they would rely on? If I lived in this world, with these available resources, based on all my knowledge and experience, how would I survive? What would I be concerned about? What would I do to improve my circumstances?

If I claimed one, true, innate *skill*, it would be my ability to deconstruct things, whether it be a physical object, or simply an idea. I think this is why I was able to hide the fact I'm dyslexic throughout my entire schooling-life. I can take things apart, re-arrange all the parts, then put it all back together in a more efficient way.

So, knowing I have no personal experience with branding/etc, is this situation believable? It's simply referencing what I do know against what would be logical (based on the technology level, culture, etc) and splicing it into a fictional world. Ah, and keep in mind, I have studied indigenous cultures quite extensively :)

If it's not believable, what information do you need to make it so?


  1. I wish I could do that. I have to have a story planned BEFORE I start writing. To me, the story is everything and everything falls into place.
    Great scene, by the way :)

    1. What's funny is that I sometimes wish I could plan in advance like plotters do.

      I think it's a 'grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side' kind of thing :)

  2. I'm a pantser as well. And I enjoyed the scene, too!

  3. I asked my husband (who is experienced with cattle). They would put the cattle in a small corral (like you did) and they would go down a chute small enough to go one at a time until they bump into the small gate. A device would gently squeeze the cow still (it's been around for hundreds of years apparently) so it could not move. If they're not completely still then the brand won't be as clear and will probably move around and hurt more I'm guessing. Then they open the gate and the branded animal goes through into a different coral or into the grazing field.

    He said they have to brand animals every two years. So they would be branding all of them, not just the calfs, every two years. Also he mentioned that he and a bunch of boys tried to hold a calf still once (without the device) and it was so strong, the group of them could hardly hold it still. They were trying to castrate the calf. He said that castrating doesn't hurt as much as branding. So I would say that branding is painful.

    I really like how the boy thinks the one sister is the other one that he's trying to "woo". I bet there's all sorts of funny situations those sister's could be in.

    1. Ooooh! AWESOME! Thank you so much for the information!

      I watched... well, probably a couple dozen youtube videos after I wrote the scene. Apparently branding doesn't actually hurt them very much because of the thickness of their hide (it's not sensitive like human skin).

      This scene will certainly be re-tooled in the editing stage, and it's super valuable to get *real* info from someone who has experienced it (like your husband), so thank you again, and also him :)

      Heh, I'm glad you like the exchange between Komil & the two sisters ;)


Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)