IWSG 36: Caves Around British Columbia

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.


What is the weirdest/coolest thing I ever had to research for a story?

My answer: The caves in BC.

I did quite a bit of research for a little piece called: Mirrors of Ash.

The world building:

There wasn’t too much world building. The majority of the setting was either underground or following a road that leaves my hometown and loops back after several miles. I took the liberty of creating a mountainside called Swallow’s Cliff that could be seen from that loopy road.


I’ve never been underground. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve been in a basement, the SkyTrain when it traveled into downtown Vancouver, the lower floors of a store or mall. But I’d never gone into a mine, or followed a cave into a mountain.

Luna Farris, my hero, not only goes deep underground, she goes back to her old childhood playground–the caves of Swallow’s Cliff. However this round she goes deeper than ever before to face a family nemisis.

Since I’ve never felt the need or curiosity to do this, I had some research to do. I found YouTube posts on the local caves around my neck of the woods. I’d watch one in the dark to get into the right state of mind.

Skaha Caves/Fissure in Pentiction.

Cody Caves Provincial Park

Not for me

I actually felt claustrophobic as my character worked her way through the gaps; and not being as thin as she was, I knew I wasn’t as physically fit either.

Luna used earbuds and listened to music as she move within mountain but I listened sounds of a cave. It bumped up my imagination as Luna squeezed into places that I wouldn’t dare go.

Sounds of a Cave

Other tidbits of research

  • I looked up some detail about shotguns
  • That the name Faris meant Knight (I was torn between Faris and St George.)
  • Swallow banks (Just because they looked cool and I wanted labyrinth of sorts that my hero needed to work through to find her prey.


Still like listening to the sounds of caves as I work. It helps me focus on the story and not be distracted by all the going-ons within the house. Lucky discovery that.

Checking out all the posts

I’m looking forward to the other posts this month. So curious on what all of you discovered. No doubt, I’ll be taking notes are more than one subject. Thanks in advance.

106 responses to “IWSG 36: Caves Around British Columbia

  1. Caves aren’t for me either. Though there’s the Luray Caverns in VA interests me. Still enclosed places where rocks can collapse on me. No, no. Same with forests and abandoned towns. All three are places I’d avoid.
    Plus, thank god for YouTube videos. Amazing the viable research information that can be found there. For fighting scenes, I search the YT videos. In my mythic fiction, my heroine fights with a sai. And was able to find a sparring match using the same weapon.

  2. spunkonastick

    I’ve been in two different caves, one where we reached the end and got to turn our flashlights off. Nothing is as black as a cave. I wouldn’t crawl through tight places though.

  3. I enjoy walking in caves, but only if they’re more open caves, not tight crevasses. And I must have light. It’s way too dark otherwise.

  4. I’ll let you do the spelunking. 🙂 Nice post.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  5. This is fascinating. I have never been in a cave, and never researched one either, but by a freaky coincidence, I wrote a story recently (and posted it on wattpad) where the caves in British Columbia play an important role in the narrative. My protagonist doesn’t go into the caves herself, but her friend does – it is of paramount importance to him to find one particular cave and reach its end. The story is fan-fiction, based on Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe. The caves are important in Spencer’s novels too: they connect Earth with a parallel dimension, Elfhome, the planet of the elves.

  6. Fascinating post Anna. I can’t stop thinking about the name Swallow’s Cliff. It’s now this magical shiny place in my mind. His past summer I went into some deep caves in Missouri. I think it was an hour trek in and out. I will never forget it and neither will my kiddos. Happy writing my friend!

  7. I lived in B.C. for 4 years, and now i’m sad I missed out on the caves! I did however swim through a kilometer of caves in Semuc Champey, Guatemala. That was beyond crazy. Thanks for the videos. Makes me feel like I didn’t completely miss out. 🙂

  8. I’m not sure how I’d feel in a cave now. When I was younger, I was braver. The worst I can imagine is underwater caves. They look fascinating but I’d be so terrified.

  9. I love the way you sat in a dark room and listened to cave sounds. Pretty creative method to put yourself there. I recommend the movie “The Descent.”

  10. I went exploring in the Cango Caves in the Western Cape, South Africa as a teen and it was absolutely magnificent 🙂 Sounds like you’ve found great writing resources.

  11. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

    My family and I have been to the Cave of the Mounds in Wisconsin a few times. A guided tour is much less scary than exploring a cave by yourself!

  12. I almost felt claustrophobic just reading this so I know I’d never make it down in a cave but how cool that you were able to find these videos! The cave sounds are awesome and I can imagine that was a great way to get into the mind of your character as she was going down and down and down.

  13. Would totally make me feel claustrophobic, too. Although, I am definitely going to check out those cave sounds – I bet they’re pretty eerie and would be excellent creepy background for writing. 🙂

  14. It’s always awesome when you can do hands-on research! I think I would find going caving kind of exciting. Maybe I should try it out sometime.

  15. You know, I actually have significant experience with spelunking, including moments where I had to blow out all my air to make it through a crevice. Now shall we talk about repelling into caves and ascending of them? The drop into a seemingly bottomless black hole? The stress of trying to ascend a corkscrew cave and being stuck dangling over a ledge with no way to get some leverage? Interesting times. I definitely learned I’m not claustrophobic.

  16. I’ve been caving a few times, but not really deep down, and all easily climbable. I lived in Vancouver for a little while, and while I went up on the mountains outside the city, I never went under them. Fascinating research here!

  17. Caves are not my thing either, but I did enjoy listening to the sounds as I read your post. We toured Mammoth Cave when I was a kid and I think that was the one where the tour ended with us standing and watching patriotic images flashed on the cave wall with that famous lady singer singing God Bless America. Now THAT was not cave-like, but impressive.
    JQ Rose

  18. the only caves I’ve been in are Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. They’re so so beautiful, but large, so I didn’t feel claustrophobic. If I were in small narrow, dark passageways, I’d freak

  19. I’ve been in a few caves, mostly surrounded by other tourists. The thing that struck me the most was how much trouble I’d be in if the lights ever went out. Not being able to find my way out scares the heck out of me.

  20. I definitely have a dislike of heights and enclosed spaces, so I can’t say I’d be eager about going into caves. I had to do a similar research for a novella I wrote, and I didn’t like putting my characters in that position either! 😉

  21. Suzanne Furness

    Larger, walk in caves I can do but not crawling underground! Interesting post.

  22. Those caves look and sound fascinating. I’ve done some research on caverns for a WIP. 🙂

  23. Y’know, I’m not really a claustrophobic type–I mean, I fall asleep in MRIs–and I’m much more afraid of too much space than not enough. But I imagine caves to be the like the NYC subway (lol) and sometimes, it’s too tight for me. Too many people.

    But writing to cave sounds! Wow, cool!

  24. That cave research had to be so fascinating! I’m not much of a spelunker, but I do find exploring big caves truly exciting.

  25. Loni Townsend

    Oooh. Those caves look cool. I wonder if I’d get claustrophobic too.

  26. I’ve been in numerous caves and caverns over the years, and most of them were cold and damp… even dripping water. But there’s a lot of natural beauty to be seen in them, too. Still… not my favorite hang-out spot.

  27. I’ve been in caves before and I love the way they jump start the imagination!

  28. Looks kind of scary after watching the video. Great post.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  29. Angela Brown

    I am not sure I could have survived researching caves so up close and personally. I probably would have run screaming at the first claustrophobic moment. Good on you to stick to it.

  30. What an interesting topic! It was in Karchner Caverns in AZ that I first experienced total darkness. We were in a huge “room” deep within the cavern when the ranger-guide switched off the lights. Eerie!

  31. I’ve been in a few caves. They were tourist attractions so not very small. I don’t think I could have earbuds in while in a cave though. It’s dark and you wouldn’t be able to hear someone sneaking up on you.

  32. My father dragged me and my sister through many caves in Illinois and Missouri as kids. I’ve always been a bit claustrophobic, so it was creepy. But the colors, sounds, and feeling of being underground were memorable. Last year I went through the prehistoric caves in the Dordogne region of France. I’m still claustrophobic, but oh, how the imagination was stirred by the magnificent artwork on the walls and ceilings.

  33. I do that too, listen to the sounds of a place or action to get into the mood for describing it. Like the sound of an ax hitting wood, or a gunshot. Etc. So cool!

  34. Now that’s cool research! Much better than a library!

    I went to a cave once with a huge underground pool. You actually had to swim under a wall to get to the inner part of the cave. It was also crazy deep, which freaked me the hell out because I’m not a great swimmer. It was still an incredible experience.

    IWSG May

  35. tyreanmartinson

    I love that you listened to the sounds of a cave. I need to try something like that with my novel that I’m writing now. I live near the Puget Sound, but I don’t actuall hear or see the water and my characters are going to be on the water in the book. I’m definitely going to start listening to some water sounds.
    Thanks for the awesome idea! It sounds like you did some great research. (I’ve only been in lava tube caves which are huge.)

  36. I used to LOVE going caving. It was so much fun. Occasionally there would be claustrophobic moments, but well worth it.

  37. I am lucky enough to have visited quite few caves in not only the uk but Holland as well. They are all so pretty a hidden world that many of us never get to see. I have also said many a times if “shit” kicks off I think that is where we will all end up living.. underground in caves that have survived for years…

    Good luck with your writing

  38. What an interesting topic to research! I enjoy exploring large caves, but the thought of crawling around in a small one makes me claustrophobic.

  39. YouTube is awesome for virtual visits, isn’t it? I’m not big on caves either. My first cave experience was in the Sutter Buttes near my home town—pitch black and tight spaces. I completely lost my bearings. Very scary. I’ve since been in more open caves in Switzerland and France. Those were fine.

  40. You are much braver than me! I’m also in BC and my novel is set on the Sunshine Coast. There are caves involved (briefly) and I’d not considered checking them out in person. Maybe I should. 🙂

  41. I’ve been in several caves: Carlsbad, Merrimac Caverns, and the cave at Silver Dollar City. The best was Carlsbad, not commercialized or filled with glitzy lights, etc. I never got that claustrophobic feeling like my sister. She can’t/won’t go into caves. She wouldn’t even read Nevada Barr’s Blind Descent mystery that takes place in Carlsbad..

    • If I ever get the nerve I’ll probably check out the Codey Caves They look interesting and they have levels of skill. No black diamond for me though. hehehe

  42. What a good idea, listening to cave sounds. I’m very much an audio person that would be a really great device for me also. Thanks for the tip, Anna! 🙂

  43. Thanks for visiting my blog. I like the idea and mystery of caves, but don’t think I’d want to spend too much time in them either. Still, sounds like fun and rewarding research. Never would have thought to listen to the sounds of caves.

  44. I have enjoyed a bit of spelunking in my time, but I know it’s not for everyone. Interesting the roads the writing life takes you down. @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  45. That virtual reality atmosphere you created must have been really helpful to put yourselves in the shoes of Luna. And, what a good idea to listen to cave recordings while working. Hurray for the internet! Imagine you’d have to go deep down with a head torch and work while the stalactites are dripping water on your notebook of keyboard. 🙂 Did you research bats as well?
    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary (May co-host)

  46. Continuing to listen to the sounds of caves as you work is a good idea to keep you in that frame of mind…as close to the setting as possible. I’m just thinking about the physical size of the caves that you went into…

    I can imagine that cave expedition also stirring the creative juices… who knows what other thoughts/ideas it can give birth to?

  47. I’ve done a TON of YouTube research, too! Often you can find a video that will put you right there. I could NOT go spelunking for any reason whatsoever! I’m very claustrophobic!!!

  48. I visited a couple of caves at a vacation I’d gone on awhile back. While it was interesting to learn about natural history, I remember not enjoying all the bugs that were there.

    • Bugs? Not once while I was researching did they say anything about bugs. Updating my info now. Thanks.

      Now, I’m thinking spiderwebs at every turn.

  49. jennifer@badbirdreads

    Those caves make me claustrophobic.

  50. Ooh caves! I seem to have developed a habit of visiting cave systems when I’m abroad. One of these days I’m bound to fetch up back in BC as I have rellies there, so I’ll check ’em out.
    The ones that freaked me out the most though were closest to home; the underground passages in Exeter. Mostly because they were used as air raid shelters in the war and the thought of spending hours crammed in such close quarters in the pitch dark… ugh!

  51. Ahh…I shudder to think about exploring caves. What if I get some creepy-crawly on me?

  52. I used to do a lot of caving or spelunking in Tennessee when I was younger. Then I started getting freaked out by claustrophobic nightmares and didn’t want to go down into the ground anymore. I’d never heard of caves in BC. If it’s a publicly accessible cave that I can walk through with a tour then I’m game for that, otherwise count me out.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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