Dec 8 2010

Company of Friends

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Wow! Wahoo!

That pretty much sums up my first hike to Aravaipa Canyon on Dec. 6. Sure, you’re crossing the creek about 70 percent of the time, which means wet, wet feet. But, oddly, that squishy-squashy feeling provided some delight and extra cushion! The unseasonably warm 68-degree weather was also helpful.

“A picture says a thousand words.” I agree. This photo, with our friends at Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona, captures the spectacular time we had during our 7.5-mile hike. Hubby and I are on left. Kathy, Don, Roxanne & Mark to our right. Click to enlarge.

I’ll admit, up front, that I started the hike by falling in the water. I was trying to ‘stay dry’ and attempted to cross a fallen tree. Let’s just say that I would have gotten less wet by trekking through the water like everyone else. A spill like that is always good for a laugh, though (and I’m lucky that dear husband suggested he take the camera from my neck before my daredevil – I mean stupid – stunt. I nearly went under!)

This canyon is filled with geologic wonders, which meant I was generally trailing behind, with the camera snapping (I blew through the batteries, somehow, in the first hour, which meant Don’s water purification system was useless, since he offered up his Energizers! Whining will get you everywhere!).

The leaves of the Fremont Cottonwoods, Arizona Ash, and Sycamores were also changing colors, making the scenery that much more vibrant. I was able to see igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks I’ve never seen – in peaches, pinks, and glassy black obsidian. I saw crenulated folding from intense metamorphic pressure and volcanism, stream formation in action, and erosional processes – all things I’ve been learning in my geology class. Did I mention that I came home with a sack full of rocks? [See more Aravaipa photos on my Twitpic page.]

I honestly can’t think of anything better: being that immersed in nature, and being with great friends who appreciated it just as much. I highly recommend it, as it rejuvenates the senses! And, besides, when the friends in your group address you as “just a kid” – as you’re knocking on the big 4-0’s door –you gotta love that!

For Writers: Friends. This trip made me think about friendship quite a bit – and how very lucky we are to have found good friends in our rural paradise. It made me think about how vitally important friends are in novels, as well … especially to your protagonist.

In my first novel, I had created such a large family for my main character (MC) – which meant loads of supporting characters – that I had forgotten to provide her with an honest-to-goodness friend.

But then I realized how badly she needed a sounding board, and that comic relief was definitely in order. In Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, he discusses the importance of various archetypes. While some of these archetypes can have ‘negative’ qualities, they can also become those all-so-important friends to your MC.

  • Mentors: can be dark, fallen, comic in nature, young or old, provide training/motivation, offer a code of ethics.
  • Shapeshifters: change constantly from your MC’s point of view, can mislead her, keep her guessing, but also can be a catalyst for her positive change.
  • Tricksters: are the comical sidekicks who cut big egos down to size, bring the MC down to Earth, and stir up trouble.

Aren’t all of those qualities things you’ve witnessed in your real-life friends? Don’t we all have a clown in the bunch, a mentor, a complicated, shapeshifting character, whom we call friend?

Who is your protagonist’s friend? A mentor, a trickster? A combination of both? What role does the friend play in the story? As an author, do you think you can ‘get away’ without having that special confidant in your fiction? Or in life? I don’t

And I already have that friend in place on my second work of fiction. Not surprising to those who know how much I love the desert southwest, that confidant is an aging ranch hand – a once spectacular cowboy in his heyday, and a wise mentor at the end of his journey.


4 Responses to “Company of Friends”

  • avatar K Says:

    Usually when I read your blog, Melissa, I come away thinking about how writing gives the creator and the fan insight into the subject being written about. Today’s blog literally gave me goosebumps. Being one of the 6 in the photo is an honor. So many are not able to enjoy these kind of wonders. The ability and desire to enjoy nature with friends is borderline 11!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    So glad the post had the “goosebump” factor. That’s how I felt about the trip! Thanks so much for being a part of it. I agree – an 11 – and that we are so, so fortunate to have the ability to participate in these types of activities.

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  • avatar Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Melissa..too bad you fell in the water. You are so like me, trying to avoid one trouble I always get into another. My reaction would have been the same, trying to cross a fallen tree I too would have got wet. I don’t know why I always end up taking the Road Less Travelled.

    Friends are not only an important part of my life, they also get importance in my stories. I like the three categories you mentioned: Mentors, Shape shifters and Tricksters. In my current WIP, I have the Mentor in place. Your post is making me thing along the line of creating a Shape shifter and a Trickster. It will be a wonderful plot twist if I manage to add these two elements in my MC’s friends. Thanks for this wonderful post. 🙂

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  • avatar M. McGriff Says:

    That looks like sooo much fun! I haven’t hiked since I was a kid (upstate NY). Have to put that back on my to-do list!

    Friends are super important and I’ve always had the preference of having 1 or 2 really close friends than a million associates. In my novel my MC has a very close friend who falls in the mentor category and will develop two or three more as the books series progresses. They each fall into those categories you described because in life, don’t we have one friend who is great to hang out with , another who is awesome with advice, and another who is good to make us laugh?

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