Set Your Sights On Adventure

Set Your Sights On Adventure

By Michael Clark

Creativity! How does it happen? For me, it always starts with a spark of inspiration: a seed, a kernel of something that stirs in my gut. But how does that seed grow into a full-length novel? The quick answer is “slowly,” but that’s no help. In order to explain better, I’ll use my adventure-horror novel Hell on High to help spell it all out.

The back-cover synopsis of Hell on High reads: 

 Prepare for adventure as Juliana, a nineteen-year-old Brazilian, is forced to run from an occult overlord, leaving her sister in peril. Temporarily safe, Juliana works to save money for Vilma’s rescue—and along the way, meets Patrick, a rich-boy mountain climber with friends in high places. 

Angus Addison wants to see his corporate flag on the summit of Mount Everest—carried there by the first woman in history—but the Himalayas are no joke. Failure could cost both sisters their lives. 

Juliana weighs the risks and rewards—for even if she raises the cash, she still must figure a way to free Vilma from the same man she ran from—a man known to his disciples as The Farmer.

Don’t worry if you can’t spot my kernel of inspiration, it’s not in the synopsis, but you can see that this book starts in Brazil and at some point includes a trip to Nepal. If you read between the lines, you might also gather there’s a stop in the United States to meet a boy named Patrick. That’s a lot of adventure. How did I connect the dots? I’ll cut to the chase. 

My first kernel of inspiration for sitting down to write this book was my fascination with the dead climbers left on Mount Everest. That’s the butterflies-in-the-gut reason for the whole thing. For me, it doesn’t get much creepier than dead bodies left in the elements as landmarks to be seen as grim reminders of mortality by climbers for years to come. But there’s more; there was also a second kernel of inspiration. My wife is Brazilian, and I have spent the last twenty-three years becoming familiar with the country. As a horror writer, my eyes and ears are always open, waiting for the next spark. I learned that Brazil has an oft-misunderstood religion known as Macumba that, at times, borders on black magic. I decided to incorporate that too.

That’s all the green light I need to get started. My task was to invent a Brazilian character that somehow makes it to Mount Everest—an adventure in itself! Obviously, there were many gaps to fill, and I took them one at a time. Some people would be perfectly comfortable sitting down to “pants it,” but I’m more of a plotter, so I spent the next several months creating a detailed outline. 

I use a free website called AirTable that allows you to create a sortable database. I try to think up approximately one hundred and fifty nuggets to write about along the journey, but if I don’t get that many, that’s okay. It’s important to have three or four extra juicy plot-changing nuggets too. What would I want to happen? What would I want to read? 

Keep all the nuggets, whether good or not, because they might inspire other ideas later. Number the back-burner ones “999” in your sorting order to get them out of your way for now. Reorder often and as needed. Using this method, my protagonist Juliana was on her way from Brazil to Mount Everest, one step at a time.


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