Monday, July 23, 2012

Hidden Treasure

50 000 words into my novel, I ran out of ideas. How was I ever going to find a way for my heroine and hero to get out of their dilemma? Was there even a resolution to the situation? My novel languished in my laptop files as I wondered what would happen next in the storyline.

Then I read a blog post by Laurie Schnebly about Plotting via Motivation. I signed up for her next workshop and planned to take Gina and Riaan, my lead characters, with me. Perhaps I could find a way to finish my story.

Laurie suggested that I use a new "just for practice" story idea to learn her plotting method. Afterwards I could go back to Gina and Riaan’s story and apply the tools I learnt during the workshop. So my characters headed back to the laptop and I cast round for new ideas.

The new "just for practice" story idea was easy to find. My friend Amy and I had discovered a new hobby—geocaching. This a quest to hide and seek treasure outdoors in weatherproof containers called geocaches. The geographical co-ordinates of the geocaches are posted on and treasure seekers download them onto a GPS (global positioning systems) device to find the treasure. However the co-ordinates do not always lead to the exact spot so once you are in the area you have to search and find the geocache. Often it is camouflaged to blend with the environment eg a nut on a pole may actually be a little magnetic container. Another friend circled the area of a geocache for quite a while before she found it—it was fashioned to look like doggie poop! The owner of a geocache will often include a clue on the website to help seekers find the container.

Geocaches may contain little trinkets or other items which can be taken if replaced with an item of similar value.

So I decided to name my new character Abigail and to send her geocaching. It was great fun to use settings Amy and I experienced as we learned how to find geocaches. Our first attempt was unsuccessful as a high wall interfered with our GPS reading, but a second attempt uncovered the geocache in the photo below.

One of our first finds

We laughed in amazement as Amy’s GPS found hundreds of satellites to navigate by, until we realized it was actually recording the number of seconds that it had searched for satellites!

In a busy parking lot I didn’t want passers-by to see me retrieve a geocache, so I pretended to have a long conversation on my cell phone as an excuse to loiter without attacting attention. Several car thefts had occurred in the vicinity and we realized we looked somewhat suspicious as we hunted among the cars. Immediately a scene sprang to mind in which Abigail was taken in for questioning by a security guard in a parking area and had a hard time convincing him that she was not planning to commit a crime.

One of my favorite finds was in a nature reserve when Amy and I took a detour from a bird walk. This is where the hero came into being—he was a bird photographer and none too happy to find Abigail in the way as he tried to capture a shot of a rare bird. Abigail of course was frustrated as she couldn’t retrieve the geocache until the photographer left.

On another occasion Amy’s sandal strap broke. We ended up in a shoe-shop so that she could buy a new pair of sandals. Aha, Abigail's strap could also break, but she could injure her foot and the only person nearby to come to the rescue would, of course, be the photographer.

With further real-life geocaching adventures and Laurie’s enthusiastic comments and encouragement, my “just-for-practice” story grew. A twist developed when Abigail inadvertently left a small family heirloom in a geocache. When she realized what had happened, she went back to recover it, only to find it was no longer there. As she searched for her lost trinket, she discovered a more important and unexpected treasure in her relationship with God.

Today my geocaching skills are much improved, my “just-for-practice” story is an outline for a new novel, and I have the tools to rescue Riaan and Gina and complete their story.

If the idea of geocaching interests you, you’ll enjoy this post by fellow ICFW blogger Valerie Comer and her novella in the Rainbow’s End anthology.

And if you have any interesting or funny geocaching experiences, I would love to read about them in the comments section below.


  1. I've never heard of geocaching so that was interesting as was the way things evolved for use in your story. Sounds like you had a lot of fun Ruth Ann.

  2. Thanks Dale, I did have a lot of fun and have lots more geocaching and writing lined up, including another of Laurie's workshops.

  3. Thanks for the mention of my novella! All four stories in Rainbow's End center around a geocaching hunt, one of very few published books that does so--or else my 'search' capabilities are sadly lacking!

    I'm so glad you enjoyed your hunt(s) and got fun ideas for your story's conflict.

  4. I still don't get it. I'm glad you enjoy it though and if it leads to a good novel, it's a fun way to find clues and get to know your character. :-)

  5. Ruth Ann, what fun remembering your story again -- I'm delighted it's on the way to Full Novel-hood! Although waiting until Gina & Riaan are finished seems only fair, since they had to wait while the geocaching one took shape. :)

    My husband and his hiking buddies periodically find/leave geocaches in Death Valley, and he loves describing what they discovered and what they left in exchange. I've never wanted to hike the desert enough to share in such an experience, but a mall parking lot sounds MUCH more appealing!