How Mountains Shape My Stories

Because I’ve always lived in the shadow of mountains, mountains always shadow my writing. This is especially true in Light Bringer. The story begins when a baby is found on the doorstep of a remote cabin in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, and continues years later when the foundling, now an adult, returns to the high country to find out who she is. The mountains in my novel are both protective and secretive — the hills protect those who live in their shadow, yet the mountains also harbor terrible and awesome secrets that threaten those same people.

Whenever I needed a hiding place for the secrets of the ages in Light Bringer, I searched maps for isolated mountain ranges, and ended up with a library beneath the Ahaggar Mountains in Algeria, ancient artifacts beneath the Beishanmai Mountains in the Gobi Desert, and experimental spacecraft beneath the McDonnell Ranges in Australia. I’d heard about  the mountains in Australia where the experiments were being done, and in my research I’d come across hints of what lay beneath the Ahaggar Mountains, but the Gobi location was strictly a guess, though later I discovered that in fact, caves deep inside the Beishanmai Mountains were repositories for ancient treasures.

Maybe the mountains themselves were helping with the book.

Excerpt from Light Bringer (Incidentally, though not all the treasures mentioned might have been found beneath the Ahaggar mountains, they do exist):

Of all the extraordinary things Teodora had seen since starting work on her current assignment, the library, deep within the Ahaggar Mountains in Algeria, had been the most stunning. She did not know who had created the library or how it had come into IISA’s possession, but she had the privilege of being one of the few people to have seen the place.

The passageways, dug thousands of years ago, were painted with pictures of cities that had crumbled to dust before history was born. Those tunnels led to a series of vast modernized rooms—climate-controlled, dust-free, computerized.

One room contained row upon row of glass cases, which protected manuscripts and scrolls too fragile to handle. Another room contained an untold number of clay tablets, some written in languages that had yet to be identified. A third room contained crystals and optical discs that held digitalized information, and other discs that gave off holographic images when spun. Though seemingly futuristic, they were relics of an incredibly remote past.

The final room contained bound books, most of which were less than two thousand years old. Tens of thousands of these books were alchemical texts that detailed such things as perpetual lamps, the manipulation of matter to produce force fields, and simple ways of creating sustainable energy. A few also talked about how certain churches in France were linked together to create a message, which pre-dated Christianity. These churches were built on ancient power points that had been mapped by astronomers and geomancers who wanted to warn future generations of the heavenly body that would come to destroy earth.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Echoes

Writers need to watch out for echoes — a duplication of words, phrases, effects, details, scenes that reverberate in readers’ minds and dilute the work. As an example: originally I’d written the first sentence of this blog as “Writers need to watch out for echoes — a duplication of words, phrases, effects, details that echo in readers’ minds and dilute the work,” but the second “echo” echoed the first and diluted the effect of both, so I changed the second “echo” to “reverberate.” In the same way, if you have two scenes that make the same point without adding anything new, then the scene is not only redundant, but echoes in readers’ minds, and makes them feel as if the story is going nowhere.

Sometimes, however, an echo can be used to good effect in writing, such as when you’re trying to play on a theme, but it’s especially effective in photography. A roof can be an interesting subject for an image, but showing the roof against an analogous background — peaks against peaks — can strengthen the image rather than dilute it.

There is no shortage of peaks around here — roof peaks, mountain peaks, hill peaks — and I was able to find shots of peaks perfectly echoed against peaks to illustrate my point.

peak to peak

peak to peak

peak to peak

peak to peak

peak to peak

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.