Monday, August 13, 2012

A Writer Looks at Teotihuacan



Yes, that's me standing on some rocks next to a plastic construction fence. Of course, the rocks and fence are located here:

That’s the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico. Last week’s adventure to Mexico was so incredible, I wasn’t sure where to start this post. So, I decided to cover it by topic over a few days.  Today’s topic: Teotihuacan From the Writer’s POV.

Two months ago this trip wasn’t even in our plans. I was working on my contemporary/urban fantasy GRUNSDAY.  The climax calls for the villain to transport my two captive MCs to a place of ancient significance for a cataclysmic magic ritual (think human sacrifice), while one of the other major characters follows them to attempt a rescue. My first choice was Stonehenge, because it’s an ancient calendar and GRUNSDAY is a fantasy about time. Plus, I’ve been there. But putting my characters on an airplane flight across the ocean presented logistical problems, especially for the rescuer. So, I decided to keep them on this continent.

My next choice was Teotihuacan, featured numerous times on the television show Ancient Aliens. If you can’t have Stonehenge for a magic ritual/human sacrifice, a pyramid’s gotta be your second choice, right? I researched the ruins via books and the internet. I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching people who’d videotaped themselves climbing the pyramid. But it’s not the same as being there.

So in June my husband said, “Why don’t we just go?” XOXOXO, Bob!

As a writer, I went with a specific agenda.  I needed to climb the pyramid, of course, and I’ll talk more about that on another day. But I also had questions relevant to my climactic scene, such as: If there was no one to stop you, could you drive a vehicle right up to the pyramids? The answer is yes. There were maintenance pick-up trucks driving all over the site. From the top of the pyramid, can you see a vehicle driving up to the base?  The answer, yes – or close enough. The pyramid is structured so cleverly, you have a good view straight down to the Avenue of the Dead below.

The fifth level of the pyramid is topped by a rounded incline to the platform at the very top. The platform (which was undergoing restoration and roped off by the orange plastic fence) is fairly small – large enough for the ritual I planned, but too small for the villain to have many guards with him. He would have to send his minions down one level, which is what I wanted anyway. The rounded hill is not symmetrical.  On one side, the slope is gentle and easily climbed. On the other, it is more steep.  I even found the spot where two of my characters take shelter from bullets being fired down at them from the top!

And, completely separate from the physical logistics of my climactic scene, there were many aspects of the setting that I could only appreciate by visiting Teotihuacan personally:
Lush greenery surrounds the complex.
Native cactus grows side by side with introduced species of trees.
The enormity of the site is something you have to see (and walk) to appreciate.
 The writer in me got everything I wanted out of this visit.  My climax works, and my second draft will be revised to include details about the site and the surrounding area.  On Wednesday, I’ll share a little about the history of Teotihuacan, as well some awesome photos!

18 comments:

  1. Dianne! So glad to hear you had a great trip, and that you got exactly what you needed. I have a feeling GRUNSDAY is a truly thrilling read, based on what you've said so far!

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  2. Love these pics! what an amazing place!

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  3. That's awesome you got to go. I'm planning a trip to do research for a novel. It's nowhere as cool as that, but I definitely need to go.

    I suspect all pyramids are inflatable (Despicable Me).

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  4. Awesome pics! That looks incredibly cool! I'm glad you got to go -- both just to experience it AND for all the great research it provided!

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  5. OMG. Just wonderful. Thank you for sharing the pics - that must have been the experience of a lifetime!

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  6. Your husband is awesome for suggesting the trip. Major points for him! Looks like an amazing experience.

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  7. Your husband has got to be in the running for the best husband EVER! What a fantastic experience for you. Can hardly wait to see the rest of your pictures.

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  8. Excellent pics! Most of the images I saw before yours did not capture the incline. I'm looking forward to reading the rescue scene.

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  9. "Why don't we just go?"

    Wow, what a guy! So glad you got the opportunity to experience your research. :)

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  10. Your hubby is a keeper!! :) Love the photos - what a cool trip!

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  11. Wow! Best writer's vacay ever! Your husband rocks. :)

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  12. What a wonderful:

    a) Vacation
    b) Husband
    c) Tax write-off
    d) WIP

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  13. Dianne, first off I am SO HAPPY to hear you liked GONE GIRL!!!! I have been telling everyone about it - I just loved the twists. If you ever want to discuss it, let me know! :-)

    Secondly, your trip looks amazing. I've never been to Mexico and I love how you went for a writing research purpose. I went/lived in Australia for 5 months last year and I still think about the Aussie lit I want to write (a YA novel of course about an American). I think traveling is so, so inspiring...I hope I get something equally inspiring out of my trip to Europe.

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  14. There's nothing better than immersing yourself in the location, and knowing for sure that your plot holds up to scrutiny. How great and supportive your husband is!

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  15. Excellent pics and holy cow isn't Bob awesome for taking you! And, having read the climactic scene in question, I'm very glad it's all going to work at pretty much as you envisioned :)

    And I'm looking forward to reading more about the trip!

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  16. That settles it...I setting my next book in Australia! Oh honey......

    :)

    Awesome pics! I'm so glad you got what you were after!

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