1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Need some ideas on how to show a hike without boring the reader

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GingerCoffee, Jan 20, 2015.

    My characters are in the woods and need to hike a short distance (couple hours). When the hiking was part of the story I had no trouble. But in this scene they just need to get from here to there. Once they get there something happens. It doesn't work to just jump from here to there with a scene change, it makes the arrival there too abrupt.

    I can describe the sights, sounds and smells. But I'm looking for things that show time passing on a hike without being tedious. Perhaps some of you would care to share what you know about showing time passing as characters walk?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What often helps me is answering a few questions:
    What do I want to say with that scene? Why is it important (apart from you need a transition for... pacing reasons?)? Can I develop the characters? Show something relevant about the world (is this the sci-fi story?)? Can I use it to foreshadow something? What's the goal of that scene?

    Descriptions of nature can be tedious, but that also kind of depends on the way they're written. I think Dean Koontz's Intensity started with fairly elaborate descriptions of California's wine country. He set up an innocent, pretty scene where something horrible is bound to happen. The Call of the Wild and one of my favorite novels, Dina's Book, use nature to build this wild, untamed, cold mood -- for me anyway, so you can also use the scene to build an atmosphere that might fit what's to come.

    I also like it when the author makes me feel invited. This is difficult to explain, but it's like... You get this feeling they built this place for me and have invited me to explore it or get lost in it. I got that feeling with Hyperion. I think you've read it, so if you remember how Hyperion was described? It was like, goddamn, I wanna go there! (but I'm also slightly scared of tesla trees! So also having something menacing in the environment might help your reader to pay attention and feel engaged).
     
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  3. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    They walked up the path toward (whichever boring-ass trail they're headed down), strolling in amiable silence past (this flower) and (that boring-ass shrub). Passing the water bottle back and forth, they kept a steady pace.

    At some point in the late afternoon, when the sun was beginning to cast long shadows on its way to the horizon, they stopped to eat (whatever picnic crap they took with them?).

    (Interesting conversation about whatever they need to talk about at this stage.)

    By this time it was getting dark, but they were less than half an hour away from (their less boring destination). They carried on, swatting at mosquitoes and picking their way through (some kind of foliage? I don't know.)

    How's that?
     
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  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Tough one. Could maybe note the shift of the sunlight. Or depending on what the character is thinking about while walking maybe something is resolved. When I drive somewhere hours away there is always a marker that once I see a certain motel on the horizon I feel like I'm home ( even though I've still got another ten minutes to go. )

    If this is a familiar hike maybe they're looking for that marker - the half way point or the three quarter way marker - almost there sort of thing.

    You could also have body reactions. After a long hike the muscles start to feel it. Depending on how many paragraphs you want to write before the shift you could start with them eager and energetic and then as markers start to pass, or conversation fades and the characters get more into themselves they start to tire, their muscles feel strained, their backpacks heavy. They're not looking at the surroundings so much as they're looking for their destination.
     
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  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Whoops,:) duplicate thread - ignore.
     
  6. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    They could cross a river, maybe one could tell the other a story.

    I can imagine this as 'clumps' of action in between words of travel. There might be one long debate or conversation revisited throughout the day, perhaps when they stop for a break or to examine some of the scenery.

    I think if there were multiple POV, this is where the author would switch perspectives by jumping from the first few minutes of the hike to another character's short-but-slow scene, then back to show the initial characters arriving—almost like what you'd see in a film/tv script.
     
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  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds to me like you answered your question. You want to use it for build up, so do that.
     
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  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Is there needed conversation/dialogue that could perhaps overlay the hike itself?
     
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  9. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I was thinking dialogue, too. This could be a good time for someone to talk about their past. (If that's needed for the story.)
     
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  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    These are all great ideas, thanks. I know how I'm going to handle this scene now, but there's more hiking to come so I can keep coming back for ideas later as well.
     
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  11. Mckk
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    This is probably a good time to develop any characters, start, foreshadow or resolve any conflicts between characters, or simply a chance to dive into one of the character's heads and reflect on some events and how they're dealing with it. It may also be a place for an interesting backstory you wanted to tell but had no place for previously. It may also be a good place for a bit of humour.

    Otherwise, I'd say maybe 2-3 paragraphs of nicely written description would do the job - no more than one page, I'd say, interspersed with some dialogue or other interesting thing. The setting could remind the characters of something interesting.

    Is there something they can do, see, or think that would somehow foreshadow what's coming up? (the event you have planned at the end o the hike)
     
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  12. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    So they are going from A-B, not for fun but purely because it is necessary to reach point B.

    Reminds me of running on a treadmill when the following happens to pass the time: -

    I count to 100, check the time, then maybe count to 10 repeatedly for a while and check the time; then a song comes on the sound system and I get lost in that for a while, then a shit song comes on and I mourn the passing of the previous song, then I start counting my paces for a while, then check the clock, then I look out of the window and imagine that I am running in the street outside and suddenly I am performing parkour, and what's this? A dog has run out in front of a car but I grab the dog much to the adulation of the many witnesses; then I run off with the dog and now the owner is chasing me so I must run faster, then I am back in the room on the treadmill and I start counting to ten repeatedly, then I look at the clock again and there are still fifteen bloody minutes left! Will this run never end? Then I hit my boredom threshold and get off the treadmill.
     
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  13. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you ever heard of Blood Meridian? It has long(written) passages of time that really set the mood. Not much happens and their is a lot of traveling, but the way it is written, that time spent traveling feels as much a part of the story as anything else. Definitely a good reference for this type of writing problem.
     
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  14. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or The Road. One long journey on foot and utterly compelling.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015
  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The posts here reminded me I've not developed one of the characters fully. I know him well, but his character has only been revealed in bits and pieces. Hmmmm....
     
  16. Chiquitta
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    Chiquitta Member

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    Perhaps describe the scenery and what objects in the scenery would make the characters give action. Like, for example, they were amidst a number of trees, and saw a wolf staring back at them. The wolf started to charge at them. They fought off the wolf with a machete that they had in their backpack. Just an idea.
     
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  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Doesn't quite fit the story but I like your creativity, @Chiquitta.
     
  18. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you would have to factor in several items such as how the two or more people get along, are they openly communicative or at odds with each other for example. Then there is the issue of the path they are taking, is it difficult, uphill, tricky terrain, well marked or not marked at all? When I hiked on short stretches of the AT it was easy to see the trail but the footing could be difficult, my mind would be working on where to place my next step. When it was simple flat ground my mind might wander and think about things I have going on in life. If the trail has a lot of side routes you have to keep checking for the trail blazes to be sure you are taking the right trail and not go way off course. In your case it sounds like they maybe thinking about what they will find at the trail's end.
     
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  19. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lol, both were written by Cormac McCarthy.(don't know if that is why you said it.) That guy knows a thing or two 'bout writing.
     
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  20. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just checked, he also wrote No Country for Old Men. Damn. It looks like I'm getting new books on my Kindle. Thanks for references, guys. :agreed:

    Sorry for off-topic...
     
  21. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    I’m one for ignoring word count, and moving the story along. Readers will skip over boring parts to again feed on the story itself. Rather than spend words, sentences that do not help the story, move it along. I would not only start at the end of their long walk, I might even open it with their soaking sore feet in hot water.
    Here is a very important rule to keep the reader reading…“Cut everything that does not help the story.” In the case of the long walk you want to write: List things you think would make it helps the story? If it helps the story keep it. If not, cut it.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The problem with that, @domenic.p, is they are in a house. They need to first get to the forest, then they have to get to a location within the forest. It doesn't work to go from the house to their destination within the forest. The transition doesn't work, tired feet or not. Though I think your comments will be useful elsewhere in the story.

    It's never been about word count. I do not have that problem.

    But I have resolved the issue. I've got some issues being discussed as they walk and this is a good place to bring those issues up. And I have them arriving in the pre-dawn light and reaching their destination just after the sun comes up, adding some tension because they don't want to be seen and the place they needed to reach is a large open landing zone like a heliport.
     
  23. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    You said:

    "The problem with that, @@domenic.p, is they are in a house. They need to first get to the forest, then they have to get to a location within the forest. It doesn't work to go from the house to their destination within the forest. The transition doesn't work, tired feet or not. Though I think your comments will be useful elsewhere in the story.
    It's never been about word count. I do not have that problem.
    But I have resolved the issue. I've got some issues being discussed as they walk and this is a good place to bring those issues up. And I have them arriving in the pre-dawn light and reaching their destination just after the sun comes up, adding some tension because they don't want to be seen and the place they needed to reach is a large open landing zone like a heliport."

    Your OP: "My characters are in the woods and need to hike a short distance (couple hours).

    In your OP you said it was about a two hour walk. If they reach their goal as the sun was coming up, what time did they start out. 3 or 4 am? Post the walk section, and lets see what value it has?
    I don't think it's a good idea to leave the reader with a question, unless the question will later have an answer, and help the story. A reader will think, Why did they leave so early? I would not side track a readers thinking from the story.
     
  24. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Very observant. ;)

    One of the things I had to do to solve the problem was to also make the distance shorter, having them enter the forest closer to the landing site. I shortened the walk. :)
     

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