The air they breathe

I don’t usually post fiction here. And by ‘usually’, I mean ‘almost never’. I write about fiction often enough, as I drag the rest of you through the grueling process that is editing The Novel that Won’t Die, but that’s not quite the same thing.

That said, I couldn’t resist this week’s prompt on location and setting at Write on Edge. Location is a central theme in my novel. In many ways, it’s the heart and soul of it. So when the WoE folks wrote about using setting as a tool to spur character development and plot, I knew exactly what they meant (even if I’m still struggling with executing it). Show us the air your characters breathe, WoE challenged, and to that I answered, I’ll try.

The following short excerpt is taken from a scene in which my protagonist brings his young sons to the top of a Northern California fire tower he loved as a teen. There, he’s reminded of his current responsibility, the scope his past…and the girl he’s never stopped loving.


Silas had forgotten how intense this was, this heady combination of staggering height and never-ending view. Past the railing that ran along the observation deck’s edge, he could see for miles, and the offering of so much unspoiled wilderness brought moisture to his eyes he couldn’t attribute to the wind. From their position against the wall–not even Spencer seemed eager to step out onto the free space of the deck–Silas pointed out all the familiar landmarks. With one raised finger against the blue sky, he indicated the circle of lakes that made up their new home, each one shining like a tiny green jewel in a granite socket. To the east of the largest lake sat the lodge–their lodge, now–and the boys ventured one step from the wall, trying to make out the brown specks of the buildings amongst the green of the trees.

“If I were a bird, I’d fly off of here every day,” Cameron said, shouting to be heard over the steady howl that bent the tips of the tallest Ponderosa pines. Even while Silas smiled, his son’s words triggered a jolt of a memory: suddenly, he was 18 instead of 28, standing boldly at the rail instead of against the wall.

“Don’t you just want to launch yourself off?” she had said, and Silas had looked at Meg in alarm. He was usually the risk-taker. He was the extremist. He never wanted that for her; the very idea of her poised at the edge had been as unsettling to him then as Cameron doing so now.

Her laugh had died on her lips, her face sobering as she brushed one hand over her flyaway hair. “I never said I didn’t want to stay airborne,” she had added, and he had turned from her then, unable to look her in the eye. Instead, maybe just for something to do, he had climbed halfway up the metal railing himself. Feet braced on the thin lowest rung, had thrust his upper body out into free space. Maybe he had hoped to scare her. Maybe he had hoped to make her scream.

17 thoughts on “The air they breathe

  1. This had me on the edge of my seat, thankfully not on the edge of a water tower. I thought you set the secene well. I imagined a small town, and how when we revisit places of our youth, somehow we think we’re young again. Well done.

  2. Hey, friend! So glad you linked up. I’ve always loved you’re writing (as you know) and this is no exception. Those last two graphs were perfect: full of tension and hidden meanings. Loved it!

  3. I’m filing this under “Things I Wish I’d Written.”

    The language is spare, not a word wasted, but the images are rich and the view as clear as if I were standing there with them.

    And even in such a short excerpt, I get the sense of who they are, just enough to want to read more, of course.

    Thanks for linking up. It’s nice to see you around the WoE joint!

  4. I like the juxtaposition of past and present here.

    I’m rather afraid of heights, especially in situations like this where there’s a guardrail and not say, 50 feet of glass, protecting me from a drop 🙂 My stomach was in knots through the whole thing, because you really took me to that spot. In the flashback, as he’s climbing the rail, I could really feel that moment of fear he wanted HER to feel. Great job.

  5. This was amazing. You captured that feeling of stomach dropping height perfectly. And made me nervous to keep reading while you were at it.

  6. Dreams are a subconscious manifestation of your thoughts and feelings, and usually death is symbolic of failure. To die in your dreams usually means that you are anticipating something, more specifically you are anticipating doing bad at something. For instance, if you have a big math test on friday, and you’ve been studying it and are confident that you will pass, however you also know that failing it will result in you failing the class, that little bit of anxiety is enough to prompt your subconscious to worry about that test, and fear failure. What ever your subconscious is pondering will manifest itself through your dreams. Try to constantly think of success and see if that affects your dream issues. Good luck!

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