**SPOILERS BELOW. If you have not read the story and want to be (hopefully) surprised, come back to this when you’re done.**
I took a different tack with this story. Normally I kick things off with a mind map, but an image of a Native American man sitting in front of a roaring fire in the middle of a cold desert night refused to leave my head. It made sense to me to just jump right into the prose and discover what he was doing there.
One of the things I’ve learned in my study of writing is that it’s hard to keep things interesting when someone is alone with only their thoughts. It may be fascinating to me as the writer, but as a reader, long internalizations need to strike the right chord if I’m to stick with them. So I compromised. Okomi was not alone, but only in the sense that his son’s body was there with him.
As soon as I determined that, the questions started coming rapid fire: Why is he sitting around a fire with his dead son? Is he waiting for something or someone? Going somewhere? What happened to his son?
That only got me so far. I hit a bit of writer’s block, so I pulled up the mindmap. I took a temporary title of “The Dead Son” and a wonderful phrase from a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem to see what I could devise:
There were some useful elements to be found here, but nothing really beckoned me forth. I ended up reading some of the Native American reference books I have in my library and that helped.
I set Okomi up as a chief of the real Kawaiisu tribe in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. They referred to themselves as the Nuwa and to their south lived another real tribe, the Vanyume. These interested me because I grew up in the original territory of the Vanyume. There’s not much known about them, unfortunately (or fortunately, since it gifts me a lot of poetic license). It’s almost certain that they lived a hard-scrabble life in such a harsh environment, though.
There was opportunity for conflict here. Both the Vanyume and Kawaiisu are described as a mostly peaceful people, but there was likely the occasional border dispute and fighting over sparse resources.
From there, I sprinkled in some mythology and I was on my way. You can read my scratch file and journal entries for more detail. You may get a chuckle out of the fact that my temporary names for Okomi and his son were Bob and Alex, respectively… Quite authentic, I know. 🙂
Here’s the general scratch file:
And the daily journal entries: