If I hadn’t made the trip myself, I don’t think I would believe how quickly you can travel from the curious world of the Las Vegas Strip to what seems to be its diametrical opposite: the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
Red Rock is composed of desert and rock formations, the kind of place that inspired one website to urge visitors to leave news of their intended destination with a “responsible party” before they journey into its mysteries.
The Vegas Strip is composed of showgirls and casinos. In other words, it’s the kind of place where visitors should leave news of their intended destination with a “responsible party” before they journey into its mysteries.
It’s almost as if Las Vegas keeps a giant secret wilderness tucked away in its backyard—a secret unknown to many Vegas visitors who don’t venture beyond the familiar flashing lights. And yet, now that I know that secret is there, a whole new dimension has been added to my understanding of the Las Vegas experience.
Discovering a secret can be illuminating when you’re on a writing road trip, too. Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given about characterization came from mystery writer Ellen Hart. She urged me to give every one of my characters—even those who play small roles in my stories—a secret.
She was right. These secrets have added a wonderful dimension to my understanding of my stories. Now that all of my characters have something tucked secretly into the backyards of their lives, my stories are more infused with potential and humanity.
Every young writer knows the refrain “I’ve got a secret.” Remind your students of it; urge them to study their own characters, to find out what kind of wilderness each one has kept hidden from the world.