Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Wilderness Navigation

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

NAVIGATION

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Description: the act, activity, or process of finding the way from one place to another; this entry will focus on the ability to find one’s way without technological support

When in unfamiliar territory, such as the high sea or the middle of a desert, you can find your way if you know the position of the stars; by locating certain stars or constellations, you can determine which direction you’re headed and adjust your course if necessary. The vikings, when traveling by water, also watched sea birds to find their way back home; if the birds were carrying food, they were moving toward land. If their beaks were empty, they were flying out to sea to find food for their young. Ancient Polynesians studied the waves and could tell, by the cast of light and the wave’s swell, which direction the waves were moving. Consistent winds and currents can also be used to locate one’s position and help in getting from one place to another.

For a slightly more technologically advanced society, compasses, astrolabes, sextants and other tools can be used. And don’t forget that if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, you can always create your own navigational markers to guide your character: standing stones, bodies of water, cities, fairy rings, portals, etc.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: Good eye sight, stamina, a reliable memory

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: meticulous, patient, observant,  level-headed, persistent

Required Resources and Training: Whatever method a character uses to find his way (stars, currents, winds, etc.), he needs to be trained in that method so he can see and correctly read the signs.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • traveling in a time prior to technological advances
  • post-apocalyptic scenarios where maps and GPS aren’t available
  • finding one’s way through the woods, desert, or other large-scale settings where people and settlements are scarce
  • a sea voyage where one’s equipment malfunctions or is destroyed
  • fleeing for one’s life across unfamiliar territory where it’s not safe to stop and ask for directions

Resources for Further Information:

Secrets of Ancient Navigators

Celestial Navigation in the Classroom

Using the Sun to Find True North

Navigating without a Compass

Finding Your Way in the Wilderness

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

Photo courtesy of j-dub1980 @ Creative Commons

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7 Responses to Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Wilderness Navigation

  1. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [12/23/13]

  2. This is a wonderful post, filled with a good reminder and useful links. It has already sparked an idea for me. :)

  3. I’m working with wilderness characters and this is something I can use: having them navigate by stars. Thanks!!

    • My stories are all set in pre-technological or other-worldly settings, so being able to find one’s way has always been a necessity for my characters and an interesting study point for me. Not that I can find my way anywhere without my GPS…

  4. Rosi says:

    Another wonderful idea for expanding our characters. Thanks so much for posting this.

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