Experiencing the Unknown

Published May 10, 2016 by nruhwald

IMG_2177As I mentioned in my last post, experiences are key to developing ideas for your writing.

One of the formational experiences that helped me create the world I now write in was the road trip I took with my sisters to Vancouver Island.

The absolute highlight of that trip was our whale-watching trip.

We donned fantastic orange jumpsuits. I imagine they were designed to keep us alive should we have fallen into the icy Pacific water, but they also succeeded in making us feel ridiculous.

The trip was amazing. I love the sea, experiencing the rolling waves and all the creatures that live there. We saw sea birds, and chubby seals resting on the rocks. The highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the whales.

Our boat hung out with a pod of gray whales, and I was in awe of the size and gentleness of these creatures. Such powerful creatures could have escaped into the ocean depths or even sent us all to a watery grave if they became annoyed by us. Yet they seemed indifferent, if anything.

But one gray whale swam within feet of our boat and looked up at us..In that moment, I felt I had met at least one member of the ocean world I have always been so fascinated by.

Meeting the unknown is a crucial part of building a fantasy world. We create and explore worlds out of our own imagination.

It is easy to think that in this age, there is no more room for exploration. But the world is no less filled with mystery, just because someone else has already experienced that mystery. Fantasy writers need to be acquainted with the unknown. How can we create the experience of something entirely new if we have not ourselves experienced and met with the unknown?

Therefore, we must go out and seek encounters with things we have never experienced before. We must broaden our imaginations by broadening our experience, and store up feelings of wonder to relate to our audiences.


Photo courtesy of my sister. This is one of the gray whales we saw on our whale watching trip.

4 comments on “Experiencing the Unknown

  • I think this works really well, I do the same. I just imagine a character of mine doing the same thing, or visiting the same place I am. Sometimes they do things similar to me and sometimes it’s radically different.

    Liked by 2 people

  • I couldn’t agree more. Whether world building or writing scenes, we are all limited by our knowledge and experiences. It’s much easier to describe something that you have experienced yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

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