Writing process

An exercise in world building

Tomb Raider territory. Ta Prohm temple. It was lovely here, mid-afternoon, so quite shaded.

Every life experience is grist for the writing mill, writers are told.  Write what you know.

Right now, we’re in Kampuchea (Cambodia). We’ve visited a number of places in the Angkor heritage area—Angkor Wat (temple), Banteay Srei (temple), Angkor Thom (village), Ta Prohm (temple).

So I decided to take some of our experiences of the last few days and use it as a writing exercise.

Not all of it, for otherwise this would turn into a homage on the engineer(s) who designed Angkor Wat—so heavy its foundations can’t support it, except for that fact they built a massive moat around it (190m wide and it forms a rectangle 1.5 km x 1.3 km) and the water mixes with the earth underneath so it acts like quicksand.


Mid-afternoon, Vianne made Stephan quicken his pace.  “Gates close at sunset,” she reminded him.  “Otherwise we’ll be stuck outside till morning.”  With a hundred cutthroats eyeing their well-made linens, wondering just how fat the purses around their necks were.  And another hundred touts trying to get them to stay at ‘their’ establishment.  For a nominal cost, of course, and probably no longer any purse to pay with in the morning.

“It’s twenty years since I was last in a city that locks its gates.”

“You know your trouble, Stephan.”

“Peace has made me soft.  I know.”  But he quickened his pace.  “If I go any faster even my sweat will be sweating.”  He sighed, a long, heartfelt moment of anticipation. “I’ll be glad to get these boots off, at least.  “

Vianne had changed to sandals two weeks ago.  And long linens to cover her legs so they didn’t get burnt.   She’d insisted on the linens for Stephan as well, but she’d let him keep his boots.  There was only so much you could do for a southerner before they stopped listening.

A trickle of her own sweat obscured her vision.  The sweat was rust-coloured.  As was she, top to bottom.  Her legs were red. Her feet were red.  Her robe was red, and ready to stand up by itself.

She wiped the sweat away.

“And into some clean clothes,” Stephan said.  “I’ve sweat so much I can’t even take a shit without fighting to get my pants back on.”

Vianne just wanted to wash her hair. Or shave it off.  It was thick and heavy, and weighed her down.

They reached the gates with the last of the stragglers.

The guards—perhaps sensing strangers—crossed pikes in front of them.  “You’re too late for tonight,” the darker woman on the left said.  “Gate’s closed.”

Anyone care to take a guess at which bits were actual experience, and which bits were made up?

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