1. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    How to make a journey interesting

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Elgaisma, Aug 21, 2010.

    My characters now have a two day walk across country.

    Can you think of examples in stories where this has been done effectively and what elements did you enjoy the most?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've seen such things used as a time for developing the characters through interactions with one another. If you can put in an illuminating conversation or two that develops the characters and furthers the story, I think a journey can be a reasonable time to include that content.

    Apart from something that advances the story, though, I think I'd dispense with most of the trip in summary fashion. If nothing of note occurs on the trip, then simply have them arrive at the destination and pick up the story from there.
     
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  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    So far that is what I am doing lol
     
  4. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    RANDOM ENCOUTERS! Be prepared to fight! ... Erhm. No.

    A journey is like any other part of the character. You can use it to set mood, theme, or use it to build a scenes of the world view of the book, etc.
    You can use it to introduce or deepen or resolve existing conflict with protagonist VS antagonist, protagonist VS surrounding, or protagonist VS self.

    But keep the mood setting but not really story driven stuff short. A snapshot of the hero riding towards the sunset can be cool, but keep it that way. Don't make a scene of something when it really is better to be kept short.

    Scenes should be driving the story.
     
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  5. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    How about if one of them accidentally impales himself on a sharp tree branch and severs a major artery, turning the journey into a perilous life or death struggle, which only ends when a UFO suddenly appears and beams the injured person up, using advanced alien technology to heal the wound, before beaming him back down only for him to find that, due to a small fault in the space/time continuum, he is now a full 24 hours behind his companion and has to race to catch up, while still suffering agonizing bolts of pain from his previously injured limb?

    Or not... :)
     
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  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    LOL Oddly that was helpful a few weeks ago I'd had the idea for one to become blinded - hmmm
     
  7. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    Hal, I like the way you think.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    A journey is like anything else in a piece of fiction. If it's interesting and advances the story, put it in. If it's dull and nothing important happens, just leave it out. Start the next scene with something like "Two days later they arrived in Glasgow, tired and badly in need of a shower and a few pints of good beer ..." That would save both you and your readers a lot of tedium.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I;m currently getting them drunk in an inn lol :) - but have posted a thread under research having trouble being a drunk guy:)
     
  10. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    People say/do/admit things in a drunken state which they won't normally do. You might use that to advance the chars or/and advance the story.
     
  11. Tessie
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    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ha, Ha! Halcyon that's good!

    Elgaisma, how about your two characters meet a random stranger? Perhaps, they welcome him/her along, and at the same time, you will reveal more of your two characters' personalities or internal problems?

    The stranger is what some screenwriters call a "B character"; someone who brings well-needed comic relief, makes your main character more exposed to the viewers, or takes up time while your MC's conflict is still in the process of being resolved. These "B characters" make a movie not so hyper-focused on the MC and his/her problems, and they are people with separate or connected conflicts, who are also waiting for resolutions.

    I know my suggestion is relating to movie structure, but it can and has been done in fiction.

    Just an idea, Charlotte!
     
  12. zeem33
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    zeem33 Member

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    About two thirds of Lord of the Rings :D

    But seriously, unless there's an integral part of the plot occurring during the journey, it's very tricky to do this effectively and keep it interesting. I've found myself flicking forward a few pages several times because I can't be bothered to read the contrived 'character building'. Why not just insert an asterisk and have your characters arrived two days later?
     
  13. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tried to do something similar in my novel once. But now I realize that any attempts to make a long journey interesting were too difficult and the results were often dull and boring. Even attempts to try and show character interactions and development weren't enough to truly keep the average reader's attention. Best advice is to skip the journey altogether and just casually mention that they arrived at the next plot point after a reasonable amount of time.

    The only exception being the journey is an important plot point, but then you wouldn't have troubles making that interesting. In my humble opinion, though I enjoyed Tom Bombadil from Lord of the Rings, I felt his entire presence was pointless and could have easily been cut out completely without detracting from the main story.
     
  14. Alexandra_Riera
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    Alexandra_Riera Member

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    try to be drunk while you write....

    I did that once.... I wrote about two guys who spent the whole story drunk passing each other the bottle all the time and it was so difficult to keep up with who was saying what and who had the bottle that in the end I had to give colours to the text.

    I checked the story the following morning and it was a good one... and luckyly, I didn't have a hangover, I had almost drank a whole bottle of wine....
     
  15. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Hooray for having just read books where characters make journeys on foot all the bloody time.

    1) If the characters are moving onto unfamiliar ground, this is the chance to bring bits of exposition into the story in order to describe the things that make the place unfamiliar. If they're moving further into a blighted forest, you can talk about the way green is blotted out by the gray of dead leaves, the lack of birdsong, the way the undergrowth and young trees thin out and then disappear. If they're moving into a strange country, they can see the weird garb of road travelers, smell odd spices in the food, pass messengers or lawmen going about their business.

    2) If the characters are walking through familiar territory, this gives you the chance for them to notice anything that's unusual or out of place, and to act in ways that show off their personality and highlight the situation. In The Protector's War, a two-day trek on foot becomes a chance to see the Mackenzies in action -- singing to pass the time, shooting arrows at targets off the roadside, the young ones playing tag or picking flowers, the older ones sitting in wagons or discussing crafts and recipes and farming as they walk. When they camp for the night, one of the adults tells stories and plays music for the kids, and everyone pitches in to set up tents or bedrolls, bring out the clay cooking ovens and start fires to cook over, picket and feed and groom the horses, put the kegs of cider and beer and lemonade into the snowmelt creek to cool so they'd be deliciously cold after dinner...

    What would your characters do that is classically them? Hum, sing, use the opportunity to tune a guitar, whittle a piece of soapstone into a child's ornament, pray for guidance, complain, pick up stones and throw them at likely targets, discuss politics or battle tactics with one another, triple-check their supplies and their money and their weapons? Does the older one scan the area with binoculars now and then, while the younger one goes on and on and on about how beautiful his lady love is?

    3) Are the characters in danger? Then you can summarize the "ordinary" parts of the journey, but mention that the stormcrow spies keep popping into view, or say that the character's wounds aren't getting better very quickly, or have a showdown between them and a single enemy.

    4) If absolutely nothing comes to mind, just skip it. Or if you want to write it but don't know that there's anything specificly plot-related that you need to add in, then condense as much as possible.

    Here's a off-the-top-of-my-head example of how to condense a day's journey to a few paragraphs.

    "They left the village just after sunrise, and passed through the new growth forest on an old logging track, now largely overgrown where hoof and wheel had failed to keep it open. The king's fleets had required timber in massive quantities, but that had been decades past, and now the tracks were used more by local wildlife than by people.

    Whidders and Deosil made good time despite the rough ground, and by midafternoon the forest thinned into scrub brush and patches of deer-cropped grass. They rested there, out in the open, and fed and watered the horses from a thin fast-running stream that crossed the track. It seemed to Whidders that the stream was just one more sign of the Crown's negligence; the track wasn't a much-used road, but it was the most direct route from Sert to the Westride, and the stream ought to have been bridged over or diverted. Certainly the nearby towns, few as they were, paid their taxes and sent their youth to the King's levies, and for that if for no other reason the Crown ought to hold up their part of the bargain and parcel out the three gold royals it would take to send some King's Engineers to shift the stream's path.

    With the horses refreshed, they moved on. Five miles from the stream, the track split, and Whidders brought out the map he'd purchased in Renault. Despite Deosil's jibes, Whidders remembered the route just fine; but in country like this it was better to check yourself now and then. The teen was too young to remember the uprisings, but Whidders wasn't, and for all that the fighting had passed only briefly through the scrub country, it was worth a few moments' time to make absolutely certain of one's path. One never knew but that a mindsnare might be out there, set and forgotton by the eren, still potent enough after two decades to catch a horse and drive it to bucking terror, or reach into an old soldier's head and make him lose his way entirely.

    But their journey was uneventful. They reached the collection of villages labeled "Onston" on the map, and with a few minutes' negotiation Whidders got the name of the local travelpriest and directions to her home. Forty minutes later they reached the place, a squat sturdy-looking building of hardpan and thatch, with a door painted in runes and sygils of the sort that made Deosil snort in self-assured derision and a vegetable garden that took of the better part of three acres."

    ,,, Dang. Now I want to write that story. *shrug* Eh, Blin has higher priority.
     
  16. Diablo Robotico
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    Diablo Robotico Member

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    While I don't think showing characters getting to know each other is a bad idea, I also think a good technique for character development that is more active is showing how characters respond to problems along the way.

    Instead of a scene where the characters are sitting around a campfire talking about their lives, you could try having them face an enemy and see how each of them responds differently.
     
  17. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    It has been said, but I'd also like to register my vote for unless something integral to the story happens on the journey just get them there. I'm all about moving things along lately. So unless the journey is really cool and necessary, its best to say, 'We left. We arrived two days later.'
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if nothing on the trip relates to the plot, i'd leave it out altogether...

    however, if you need to show the readers some aspects of the characters' character, then it's a good time/way to do that... and it can be done by way of their actions/reactions toward one another, as well as to their surroundings and what happens along the way...
     

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