This morning, I don’t have to go to the farmer’s market.  So I take off for Huntley Meadows Park, which is a nature center with amazing marshland.  I’ve been wanting to go for a few weeks, but the only time I can do it is early morning.  The place gets lots of photographs, so the parking lot fills up fast.

I use Waze to get there since the place is pretty hidden and hard to find.  And I run into a police blockade.  It’s small enough I can see where the blockade ends.  There’s also an emergency response panel van on site.  Not good.  It takes a bit of smarts to figure out what direction to go so Waze will detour me instead of telling me to make a U-turn.

The parking lot is nearly full, but the nature center is not packed with people. I take boardwalk through the marsh, navigating around photographers with enormous cameras staked out at various points. They’re catching animals so tiny that you can’t see them with a mega telescopic lens.   I listen to all the different birds.  They don’t just chirp.  They warble, trill, sing, and honk (Canada Geese).

It’s amazing to watch the transition from summer to fall. In spring, this exploded with vibrant growth. Everything in Virginia is green, green, green. In past years, I would have said all the change happened once fall set in. But walking away and simply studying the plants this year, I saw subtle signs of the seasonal change. Leaves on oaks drying out, their color fading a little. Not as vibrant.

In the marsh, many of the plants are still green but sliding into brown. Others have turned brown entirely and have begun receding. By the time we get to winter, this will be mainly flat water.

The marsh plants are receding in preparation for the seasonal change.  Looks a little like a guy forgot to shave.
Marshlands with reflections of trees on the water.  Peaceful in the early morning.

After a walk through the marshlands, which takes about an hour, I hop back on the road.  And the street is still blockaded.  There are now two cherry pickers out.  No clue what’s going on.

On Twitter when I return.  I also upload my promotions for the next week on Buffer.

Then writing on and off all day.  Adding more detail as a result of the map, making sure the actions jibe with the map.

Also run into a writer on Twitter who blows off “domestic scenes”—where characters eat, or do something not purely plot-related.  Sounds like it fits in with that bizarre advice “cut anything that doesn’t push the story forward.”  So much of that advice sabotages the book in such a way it’ll get form rejections.  Those scenes are just as important for a variety of reasons:

  1. They show that the character has a life outside the story.  With some books, I’ve gotten the impression the author didn’t think outside the borders of the story at all.  Makes the characters feel flat.

  2. They are opportunities for more character development.  They help form the foundation for character development in the bigger, plot-related scenes.

  3. They are opportunities to add the five senses (particularly eating) and family/friendship dynamics.

A common topic of my writing meeting is urban fantasy writers.  A lot of them start with a character who lives in two worlds: One with the monster flavor of the series and the normal life outside.  Your character might run with a buddy or be a bridesmaid in a wedding. Makes for wonderful stories. I think we all want a character like us, doing normal things, and yet being more. But as the series ages, the author often starts taking these out and it becomes all monster all the time.  I’ve stopped reading those authors at that point because the story loses its heart. Because if you don’t have the characterization, the story doesn’t matter.