More Writing Props

In my  journal, I had written about taking the skiff out into the Bay of Conception to get a closer look at the many dolphins that were travelling up to the head of the bay. Paired with this photo courtesy of Amanda Naismith, and several others which triggered that memory, I wrote a scene for Kevin and Sylvia in Orion’s Gift that was very close to the truth.


Excerpt from Orion’s Gift:

Hundreds of sleek bodies broke the surface only to curve and dive down immediately and reappear a few yards farther on. Kevin cut the motor again and we drifted, a mere speck in the middle of the huge Bay of Conception, closer than we had hoped to a huge school of dolphins, all aiming for the head of the bay.

“Listen to them!” I whisper-shouted to Kevin. The mewling, whistling, singing, and crying, as they repeatedly broke the surface of the water, was an eerie choir piece. Hauntingly beautiful, it gave me goosebumps in spite of the warm day. Kevin’s face mirrored my feelings exactly—somewhere between awe and ecstasy. My mind was suddenly in turmoil, balancing this rare and precious moment with the realization that I probably had few of them left. Peaks of happiness and bottomless pits of misery played havoc with my emotions.

My eyes filled with tears. “Thank you for bringing me out here. That was so beautiful.” I lowered my head. Just needed a moment.

“It would have been a shame to have to enjoy this all alone,” he said.

Still trying to come to terms with the amazing spectacle we had just experienced, we sat a moment longer watching the last of the dolphins disappear in the distance.

“Uh-oh!” Kevin pointed towards the open end of the bay. “Whitecaps.” He started the motor and turned the skiff towards home. Within minutes, the breaking waves had moved much closer and the glassy smooth surface changed to ripples that grew into an uncomfortable lump. I’d heard San Diego fishermen talk about the lump in the sea. Now I knew what they were talking about.

“Hang on,” he said. “It could get bumpy. I’ll take us to the nearest point of land and then we’ll work our way home along the beach.”

I gripped the gunwales of the boat where they began to curve towards the bow. We bucked into the choppy whitecaps that had now overtaken us. In no time, the sleeves of my blue cotton shirt were soaked from the spray. Two-foot waves didn’t seem like much but they followed one after the other so briskly that the small skiff took a pounding. My stomach clenched into a knot of fear as we were tossed in every direction. I tightened my grip against the bouncing of the boat. More waves splashed over the bow, soaking the front of my shirt. I was glad the water was warm. It would have been an ordeal to be splashed with icy water every few seconds. The finer spray wet my face so the drops were running off my chin. I glanced at Kevin in the stern of the boat. He was completely dry except for a bit of salt spray in his hair. He looked so good and I could only imagine what I looked like. Drowned rats came to mind.

Writing Props – Journals and Photos

When I travel, even on short trips not too far from home, I keep a journal and/or take photos. It’s not that I think I’ll forget everything so I have to write it down, or that I need the proof the camera will provide. I started doing this way back when I was much younger, before I realized that I might, indeed, forget some of the details of my travels.

I’ve kept journals fairly diligently for the past 37 years. At first it was “just for the record,” but then the journal became useful for reminding me of places to return to – or not. Notes like “Pilot gas station at XXXX, California – High prices, terrible service, no room to turn with a trailer. Do not go back!” have come in very handy on a return trip.

Here are some of my journals. As you can see, any kind of notebook will do the job. Many have several trips recorded in them. I use them until the pages are full.


Photos are not as useful for travel guides but they bring back memories that may not even be on the picture. Amazing how the mind makes connections from triggers.

In my novel, Orion’s Gift, I made great use of my journals and photos from trips my husband and I had made to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Places we stopped for the night became places where my characters, Sylvia and Kevin, stayed overnight as they lived out their adventures in Baja. Photos of the towns, beaches, countryside, and people of Baja twigged memories of events and places I was able to use in the novel. We know that it doesn’t take a page of description to paint the picture for the reader. A few well-placed choice words will do the trick.

And so the journals and photos have become invaluable to me for use as writing props. Now I document my trips with a view to using some of the content in future novels. You just never know when some scene calls for details that are recorded in the journals or photos.

Example: The scene about going to the spring in the desert came from my notes and photos.

desert flowers

Excerpt from Orion’s Gift

“How far is the spring?” I adjusted my pack.

“About 45 minutes each way,” Bill said.

I looked around. Rocks, sand, cholla, ocotillo, and cardón cacti, and palo verde trees. Beautiful, yet unending and without distinguishing landmarks, and no ocean in sight. I didn’t like it. Oh, it was scenic enough, but heading out into the unknown, so late in the day, putting all my trust in people I had just met—it didn’t sit right with me. “Did anyone bring a compass?”

Sharon laughed. “We know the way. You follow the dry riverbed and watch for the little rock monuments.” To my way of thinking she seemed a bit over-confident in the insubstantial. Sharon was assuming these rock piles would always be there. What if they were knocked over by people or animals? What if there was a flash flood? And besides, rocks had a way of looking alike. And even if the rocks were still there, what if we got separated and she and Bill were the only ones who knew the way?

“Who built them?” Sylvia asked. She didn’t seem to be worried. Maybe I was overreacting.


Do you use your journals or photos for writing? Do you have writing props of some other sort that you can tell us about? Why not share your thoughts?