Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Back to the Past

I am writing a time-travel story in my "spare" time. It begins with a plane crash. It's a small cargo plane with two people on board, a man and a woman. They travel to the distant past ca 500 BC in ancient America. So here's the question I'm confronted with. What supplies/ materials/ etc., are in the cargo?

There is a limited amount of room on the smaller cargo planes so whatever is on board, the space limits both size and weight. If you had to choose three essential items, what would they be? Remember that if the item is a consumable, then eventually it will be used up.

There are other difficulties in the scenario of course. Shelter, food, water, something to defend themselves from wild animals.There is an absence of modern technology and no power--or limited power once the batteries are dead.

What will happen when they encounter other people? How will they communicate? How do they come to the conclusion that they have moved through time? What kind of mistakes would they be likely to make and how would those mistakes affect their ultimate survival?

In most stories about time travel, one individual travels to another time and ultimately settles there, usually marrying the "hero" or "heroine". After all, one of them must give up all that they have known and settle in the new time period. But what happens when the hero/heroine are both from the same time and must adapt to the new place and time? Both of them have memories of another place. How will that affect their decisions?

Anytime the writer undertakes a story in the past or future, there is an enormous amount of world building that must be done first. Even if that story takes place in an actual location, there is world building to do. Where are the streams located? The mountains? What kind of climate was it in that time period? What type of flora and fauna? Many familiar plants from the modern times are not native to this continent and were imported with each new wave of immigrants. Some animals that were around then are extinct now. And some animals that are present in the country now were not around then. Horses, cows, certain species of sheep...

Obviously, they can't butcher a cow for dinner. Maybe they could catch a turkey. What types of weapons and traps would they use?

Practically every scene contains something I have to stop and research. Will the reader know and appreciate the work I do? Possibly not. But if it isn't the best I can do, then I will know and I will be dissatisfied with the book for the rest of my life.

In the meantime, I would like to hear what your thoughts are. Three essentials in the cargo. Think about it. Leave it in a comment. I'll draw at least one entry to use in the book and add the donor's name in the dialogue. Something like, "Oh, Kelly wanted me to bring her (X) because she used all of hers."

Until tomorrow.


Don't forget to stop by Amarinda's blog to see what new mischief she's up to at and then of course stop at Kelly's blog to find out what she's done with the blog saga at


  1. alcohol for medicinal purposes, chocolate for medicinal purposes and a genie with a lamp to give me three wishes...first wish - get the hell out of 500BC

  2. I'm with Amarinda!

    Seriously though - wow! Where were these guys flying? Through the Bermuda Triangle? I don't envy the research you have ahead of you! For instance, did turkeys as we know them even exist in 500bc? I doubt cows did! Who knows what America was like because it wasn't "discovered" until well after that.

    Supplies...a tent, a Leatherman all-in-one tool (with a bottle opener for the alcohol!), a case of antibiotics, and a shovel.

  3. I had a dream about a sci-fi plotline a couple of years ago, and still have the notes tucked away. I really didn't know how to explain everything, so it's 'on ice'. Maybe once I finish this series, I'll pull it out again, or give it to you!

    Will have to think about the 3 items some more, although I like AJ's suggestion. And Jenyfer's...gotta have a Swiss Army knife. Does my Life Scout (future Eagle Scout!) count as cargo, ha ha?

  4. Well, since this is a cargo plane, some of whatever they're transporting will be in containers--either crates or large plastic containers, which they can use for shelter--and they'll have lots of straps with buckles for tying down said containers and cargo.

    My three thoughts: a flock of chickens (at least 2 hens and a rooster); some kind of water purification system; a wilderness survival manual

  5. Hmm. I like the all in one tool idea. You can make a tent with parts from the plane and ripped seat covers. Food is food, you adjust to where/when you are and you can distill water to purify it or boil it. Without repeating other people's ideas....

    I'd say at least one pot (a stock pot can serve every purpose including heating water with soaproot for cleaning clothes, cooking and water reserve), a bag of cloth (say for a quilt, but can be used as rags, sanitary supplies, sewing together for covering) and a well-stocked sewing kit (see last suggestion as well as repairing skin tear injuries).

    Good question, Anny.

  6. I think I would have the dopest Swiss Army knife money can buy, a satellite cell phone that works on solar power (and GPS capabilites would be nice too), and a cast iron skillet!

  7. Interesting ideas. No cell phone, though, Jennifer L. or GPS as none would work in 500 BC (no cell towers or satellites). Give it another whirl.

    I would suspect that my pilot would carry a SA knife.

    Amarinda, I had not thought of the alcohol. Hmmm. But I did think of chocolate.

  8. ok...if we have to be sensible...
    1.a knife
    2.a first aid kit
    3. Alcohol

  9. I think SA knife it good but I think I would rather have a much bigger knife to cut with. Might have to cut branches for make a shelter. Kind of like a rambo knife with a compartment to hold needle and thread though I believe it also has a fishing hook in it and on the handle is a compass which is very handy. A tent might take up too much room and if nothing else unless the plane is burned you can use that for shelter. Matches to start fires. The alcohol wouldn't be bad.

  10. Big honking hunting knife.
    Roll of twine

  11. a knife, a coil of rope, and an ax

  12. My hubby says an machete, Rambo Survival knife, and a flint and steel.