Desert Adventures: Hard to Do Without Writing ‘Dessert’ By Accident At Least Once

The Mummy

I’ve actually talked about sea journeys and a few other specific types over the years, but I realized that I never touched on this one.  Desert adventures have been really popular for a long time.  You find it in many series and some revolve entirely around existing in this setting.  First examples I can think of are ‘Mad Max’ and ‘Dune’.  So, what is appealing about this setting?

Well, it has to be one of the most brutal landscapes to place a story.  It’s the polar opposite of . . . arctic adventures.  Sorry about that one.  Obviously, the difference is that the desert holds different threats.  I’d argue it has more than its mate, which is primarily about freezing to death.  The things that can kill you in a desert seem to be extensive and one gets the feeling that the setting is more of an enemy than the villains.  After all, heroes have to contend with:

  • Having no water.
  • Intense heat.
  • Sunburns to the extreme.
  • Limited food (can’t go fishing).
  • Scorpions, snakes, and other venomous creatures.
  • Choking sandstorms.
  • Bands of thieves.  (Sometimes)
  • Your mind playing tricks on you through mirages.
  • Walking through sand.

That is a long list of difficulties, which is why it can be fun to drop a hero into the middle of such a challenge.  Even if they’ve bested monsters and man, this is always a battle against the elements.  You have Mother Nature to contend with and she is unforgiving when it comes to deserts.  In the arctic, you can bundle up if you have the supplies.  When it gets hot in the desert, you can’t strip down to cool off.  That only exposes you more and makes sure your body is evenly cooked for the scavengers.  Nighttime can get really cold too, so you have another extreme.  That means you can’t prepare for only one part of the day and survive.  You need to handle both and that requires a lot of equipment.  If that horse or camel goes down then you’re in trouble.   The chances of things going wrong and leading to death are high regardless of the heroes experience.  Sure, you can cheat with certain spells and magic items, but that takes part of the tension out of it.

Another reason the desert can be an appealing and dangerous setting is because it has both mystery and loneliness.  Imagining a character or group alone can bring up certain emotions.  They’re staring off at an endless expanse of sand with no sign of water, towns, or other people in sight.  Are they going the right way?  How long will the journey take?  Did they pack enough supplies?  The questions will continue running as long as they travel and they should consider this too.  You have a sense of the unknown here, which can be enhanced by the fact that you never know what is lurking under the sand.  Something about anything moving beneath your feet and being able to explode up to attack is very unnerving.  Unlike water, you aren’t floating about and can’t look down to see a shadow coming.  You’re effectively on solid ground and able to move, but a giant scorpion can burst out to stab you before you can figure out why you’re getting taller.  This could just be personal preference.

I’ve only done one or two desert adventures, but they were limited.  The one in Legends of Windemere took place in both a town and with nomads, so the major risks weren’t there.  The other was a single chapter in War of Nytefall: Loyalty because the characters were on a mission.  They did have an unseen enemy using the sand and had to figure out how to survive in the heat though.  Much harder for vampires when they get weakened in the sun.  Clyde hadn’t figured out his secret yet.  That’s really the extent of me trying this setting.  I do plan on working more with it in the future though.

So, what do you think about desert adventures?  Ever try one?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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18 Responses to Desert Adventures: Hard to Do Without Writing ‘Dessert’ By Accident At Least Once

  1. Andika Juu says:

    i like a good desert adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. L. Marie says:

    I haven’t written one, but I have read some of the Dune books, so I can’t help thinking of Arrakis. (Children of Dune is a favorite of that series.) And also Sinbad stories. Oh and One Thousand and One Nights. Seems like on the old Star Trek series they landed on some desert planets. The struggle to survive is always compelling.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    More great tips, from Charles 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In my current WIP, my characters get dropped naked in the desert outside Las Vegas. Their problem was to find clothes suitable for a dinner engagement that they have with a Mr. Sedit (American Native name for Lucifer) at the Bellagio hotel. They manage to work it out. It was fun dealing with the elements and no clothes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I read a series of books years ago about The Harpers. They were a sect of some kind and a lot of their adventures took place in deserts. I think it was affiliated with some gaming system. I wrote about Serang’s crossing the desert in her story. It was a high desert with freezing temperatures like you might find in Asia. Had camels and everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve had characters in dry, rocky forests, but not the classic desert. That lack of water and sun exposure is nothing to joke about.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rita Goldner says:

    Just published a children’s picture book about the adventures of a drop of water in the desert. He’s a secret agent on a mission to hydrate people, animals, and plants.

    Liked by 1 person

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