Vision: A Resource for Writers
Holly Lisle's Vision
Finding the "Wild" in the Wilderness
By Keri Bas
2002, Keri Bas
character encounters a non-urban area, especially an untamed wilderness region,
there are dozens of threats to health and survival that can go unnoticed.
A character's trips through wooded areas or unfamiliar landscapes can
easily become torture because of the natural dangers inherent in such an area.
Often, in the
minds of readers and travelers, the smaller dangerous animals take second place
to the larger predators and more glamorous encounters. Even in a fantasy world where dragons or griffons run
rampant, their ecosystem could (and should) support a plethora of smaller
animals. The pitfalls an adventurer
encounters in nature can be myriad, and the effects of such difficulties on the
plot are just as varied.
trip through the woods is characterized merely by a series of inconveniences.
Biting insects are annoying, especially if they manage to invade any
protective gear the character may be wearing.
Burrowing animals make some terrain treacherous for foot traffic and
horses - sudden collapses and unpredictable holes in the ground can spell big
trouble for the unwary.
of the wild can be true dangers, causing delays and unfortunate injuries to
travelers. Poisonous spiders come
in many shapes and sizes. It's easy
to overlook the smallest arachnids in awe of the larger, although the damage
from the smaller is often more severe. Spider's
venom is at least a more natural problem that can be addressed by pharmacology
and treatment. Often the more
debilitating consequence of unknown bites, insect or arachnid, is disease.
For instance, posted signs in North American recreation areas warn of the
tiny deer tick, an arachnid that is easy to overlook but can transmit Lyme
bats, squirrels, and rats can cause a lot of problems for the unwary traveler,
whether by damaging equipment or by spooking larger animals, like packhorses.
dangerous elements of the wilderness are, of course, those creatures that can
cause a quick and unexpected death. Snakes
are often at the top of a list of dangerous creatures.
These reptiles are usually difficult to see in the woods, so all
travelers should take care as they move through the terrain.
Snakes aren't the only poisonous menace in the woods or deserts or
jungle. Scorpions can get into
camping gear, as can bees and wasps. There
are only two poisonous lizards in the world, but any large reptile might bite
and claw if cornered.. Even
centipedes can cause injury as their legs puncture the skin, although they
themselves may not have a poisonous bite.
Given all the
potential dangers inherent in wild terrain, caution and preparation become
paramount. Proper supplies and
clothing can mean the difference between life and death, or health and a slow
ruin by malnutrition and vitamin loss. Realistic
rendering of a character's encounter with an unfamiliar or untamed ecosystem
requires knowledge of the dangers and the pitfalls of the environment.
Characters who face such problems, even the simplest of mosquito bites,
bring a new dimension of believability to a novel.