Monday, January 18, 2016

Act I; The Bonneville Slide Takes out the Family in the Dugout Canoe

Character workshop
Act I
#1: The Earthquake and Landslide

Date: October 12th, 1492

Place: 30 miles east of present day Portland Oregon, in the Columbia River Gorge at the western edge of the Bonneville Landslide, which was a 30 mile wide swath of land which fell off the side of Table Mountain, which resides on the Washington side of the river, which is the north side. The people who I will have pushing eastward along the Columbia River, leaving their coastal village to meet with the Walla Walla tribe, in order to trade -- but also to show off their young first born son, in hopes of someday having a marriage between their chief's daughter and the most successful trader's son, from the Clatsop tribe who live at the mouth of the Columbia River, where it feeds the Pacific Ocean.

It has been proposed that in light of recent carbon dating from a Douglas Fir tree 150 feet under the fill from the Bonneville Slide showing a range of 1550 to 1750, whereas previous estimates had it as early as year 1000. Most likely there were a series of landslides, along the 30 mile swath of fill. There is evidence of a 9.0 earthquake which occurred around year 1700. I'm bending history a couple of hundred years, and while I wish to select a significant date in "western" history for the setting of the story, I don't necessarily wish to use Columbus day -- I only selected it as a placeholder and reminder that I plan on finding a better date.

Motivation: The raw power and demonstration of complete physical domination from an event such as a 9.0 earthquake followed by a mountain falling off of its perch and into the deep and wide gorge below,  obstructing the mighty river which carved the gorge in the first place will be difficult to get on a written page.  But told through the eyes of a 13 year old boy -- opportunities to tell some cool stories will present themselves.

The whole novel, with these disparate and really, not tangibly tied together with serious connections other than the land they call home, needs to be a character in each of the three sections. This section will show the power and terrible power that can arrive in the blink of an eye. There is no storm clouds on the horizon to portend an earthquake. The Pacific Northwest is a place of mountains, volcanic and otherwise, that have been carved into by glaciers and glacial dam flooding left when the ice receded. And this topography and living natural history is also beautiful and mysterious and intriguing. And that is exactly what I should illuminate.

#2: Nuua-Chaahh

A 3 year old first born male of Nuua-Slingit and Laana-Tshimshian, a successful couple who built a business trading sea otter pelts, whale blubber and other marine and coastal goodies to tribes on the eastern side of the Cascades. In this story Nuua-Chaahh is making his first trip east of the Cascades as he is finally old enough to be of help, but also because his parents wish to show him off to the chief of the Walla Walla tribe, a large and influential tribe centered around the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers in what is now Eastern Washington, in present day Tri-City area of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco. Interestingly enough, it is also the place of Hanford, a federal facility that played a large role in the Manhattan Project.

Nuua-Chaahh is a good kid, loves his mama, loves talapus and the Clatsop tribe too. He's a good kid, crazy 'bout blubber. Loves salmon and his girlfriend, too. It's a long day, living in Astoria, there is a beaver runn'n through the yard.

He will probably be the narrator for this portion. I'd like to incorporate flash backs as he travels up the Columbia River in a dug out canoe. He is excited for the adventure of travelling this far from home, but he is not as excited about meeting the daughter of the Walla Walla Chief as he has a girlfriend in a village close to his.

As such, he will undoubtedly be the hero of the story. The earthquake and then the landslide into the Columbia river and the resulting wall of water sent in both directions might be a scenario they find themselves in. One way or another, tragedy will be befall the traveling party.

#3: Nuua-Slingit

A 33 year old male. Father of Nuua-Chaahh, and husband to Laana-Tshimshian. A Successful trader who operates the trading post at the southern aspect of the mouth of the Columbia river; where current day Astoria sits and spends 1/3 of the year traveling around the Pacific Northwest conducting business. This particular trip is especially important as he is hoping to initiate discussion concerning his first born son and possible nuptial relationship between a daughter of the chief of the Walla Walla tribe. He may be a little to excited at the prospect, in that he has not stopped to consider his own family member's feelings, nor has he thought about the potential offensive nature of a non-chieftan to propose nuptial relations with the most powerful tribe's chief and his daughter. He will probably die, or maybe even sacrifice himself in the interest of his family, passing on the responsibility of taking care of the family to his son. An element of redemption with this character needs to be present.

#4: Laana-Tshimshian

A 28 year old female. Wife to Nuua-Slingit and mother of Nuua-Chaahh. She will be the most prominent female character in this story; but she will be fairly static, loving and strong mother and loyal but independently thinking wife. She recognizes the utility and opportunity that having their son marry the Walla Walla princess, she knows that Nuua-Chaahh does not desire it, and furthermore, she was born in a long house by the mouth of the Columbia River, with the sound of breakers crashing into the beach in the distance and the smell of smoking salmon ever present -- she does not enjoy leaving the comforts of the coast and wishes to have less trips into what is now the relatively dry and barren landscape of Eastern Oregon, not more, as she grows older.

At such an early stage of development, it is important, I believe to keep over arching themes and principle issues in mind.

One of my English professors used to speak about the fallacy of the "noble Indian" and how, even today the idea of the Native American had changed over the years, in that one lens with which modern culture uses to view the historic Indian character discounts their humanity by placing them on a morale pedestal, of sorts. It is something that resonated with me, and something I had not put a lot of thought into, until that time. I grew up with that exact idea, that the key to cutting through modern life's entrapments was to channel the spirit of the "Indian" who was in touch with the land before it was perverted by the arrival of the white man's greed and plundering. I mean, walking through a true old-growth forest and contemplating the fact that this is what all forests where like before we logged them all, save for a few patches here and there, can easily lead to this conclusion. While I desire to remain conscious of the cultures at play in this story, it is not the reason for the story.

I look forward to further fleshing out this story of adventure.

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