1. Florent150

    Florent150 New Member

    Dec 5, 2010
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    the "Travelling" problem.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Florent150, Dec 17, 2010.

    I'm still in the concept stages of a story I'm writing, but have run into a little snag. Basically, I have a constructed a world as the setting. Most of the drama in the story I intend to take place at various settlements throughout this world, villages, cities, lost settlements, mountain passes, science complex', w/e. The trouble is linking these together realistically as my "party" travel between important locations which will be spread out around the world. The story is quite big in scale and it's important that the reader gets a proper comprehension of the whole world, so I don't want to concentrate everything into, say a continent or small area where all the drama takes place (and it's a fairly modern setting so I can't play the unexplored territory card.)

    This creates a bit of a problem as to how my party with my protagonists travels between these important locations, and I want to know a bit about what's acceptable to the reader. I could, potentially fill these intervals with "blah blah blah the leaves fell from the trees as party moves through hundreds of miles of land for the next few days (it's boring and uninteresting to the plot so don't worry what's there) blah blah blah," but that seems a bit poor in terms of writing technique, like I need to fill these travels with something interesting, maybe character-driven exposition without the event-driven substance of the locations themselves. But like I said I want to limit the focus as much as possible on these travel periods; I want major exposition on my character's pasts to occur in very memorable places, i.e the specifically designed locations I'm creating. I've tried to create actual locations that can be used during travels between settlements(natural locations that would be more memorable e.g some famous waterfall or w/e) as apposed to empty wilderness, where better exposition can take place, but, again I can't fill the entire space between settlements with this kind of thing; the shortest distance between locations I plan, that would make realistic sense due to the size of the world, is about 900 miles.

    Most of the issue stems from the geography base I've had to lay out. Like I said I want drama to happen in most areas of my map. If I had 20 really notable locations, spread over a map the size of Earth (it has to be the size of Earth due to a deep-seated story mechanism), that's obviously a lot of distance travelling between each point. I want to retreat the travelling into the background as much as I possibly can for the reasons I just stated :p but I need to retain a realistic sense of time and distance in the here, so the audience is going to believe that the party is actually cover great distances.

    thanks :D
  2. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributor Contributor

    Jun 12, 2010
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    I have a story fairy for my first draft - she comes along and zaps my characters where they need to go. I find once the main story is written it is easier to see events and encounters that can happen along the way - if I can't find something to make it interesting I just say and three days later we arrived in.
  3. ministar

    ministar New Member

    Dec 14, 2010
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    Ohio, USA
    I'd say take those transitional moments and use them to stomp the old "show, don't tell" rule right in the face. I think traveling sequences can be easily smoothed over with some good old-fashioned narrative. Talk about the change in geography (note climate changes, cultures of towns and villages they pass through). Talk about the passage of time (do any seasons change while they are traveling?). Maybe comment on the characters' moods if a few of them are becoming irritable or hungry. Food, water, and rest are all important factors of a journey as well.
  4. Jonalexher

    Jonalexher New Member

    Nov 22, 2010
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    Instead of describing the environment and saying that they walked, you could make something happen as they're travelling (to keep the action going). You don't want to overwhelm the reader with action though, so it's important to know when to include a "rest," in your case it could be the travels.

    You mentioned 900 miles being the shortest distance, I assume they won't walk this, since it's a pretty long trip. I was thinking of a smaller world, I had a similar idea for a story like this, something along the lines of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Maybe you should read the trilogy, if you haven't done so already, to get some ideas, they travel a lot (Frodo mostly)
    Hope I helped!
  5. Newfable

    Newfable New Member

    Nov 23, 2010
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    This is a great suggestion; I would take it!

    Besides shifting from one place to another through narrative, make sure that each place is important in one way or another. I'm reminded of the Final Fantasy series, in which a party is usually travelling some great distance for one reason or another. However, each place is important, in its own way, to the plot. If your characters are going to a museum, don't bother including it if they just look at pictures and paintings and question the value of art; that's great and all, but serves no purpose to the narrative or plot. Just make every place they go to, and the distance between them count and mean something.

    Also remember that you don't have to detail every last aspect of the trip in your story. Plenty of things can happen from here to there, but it may not be important enough to mention, or go in depth with.
  6. Donal

    Donal New Member

    Jul 14, 2010
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    Limerick, Ireland
    It could be worth describing their experiences on these journeys. I don't know if its fantasy or not but for me a pretty good thing you could do is on the first stage of the journey lenghten it out. Devote a chapter to an experience they have on their journey, give the reader some action. You can make it relevant to the plot. Maybe they meet a new character, find a new item, discover something they needed to hear about their mission or themselves. Then once you have established that it takes several chapters for them to cover these kind of distances you can always introduce a Get Out of Jail Free Card allowing you to move them quickly and at ease.

    Tolkien in The Hobbit used the Eagles to transport the characters great distances
    Rowling in Harry Potter introduced Portkeys and Teleportation (apparition)

    Or if your party are not travelling together you can switch from chapter to chapter using the weather, the lenght of their hair etc to show the passing of several months.
  7. HorusEye

    HorusEye Contributor Contributor

    Jul 25, 2009
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    Once you've established that they're travelling, skip over it as much as possible, later. There's nothing less interesting than logistics. We know they're going from A to B, so show what happens when they arrive at B. Anything in between is pointless filler.

    Personally, I feel that the travel sequences from LOTR, referred to in other posts, are a major drag. They only serve to slow things down and kill tension, and most could have been cut out.
    1 person likes this.
  8. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jul 11, 2010
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    Near Los Angeles
    If nothing important happens during the journey, do not write the journey. You don't have to document every moment of your characters' lives. If your characters need to go from Point A to Point B, then just do something like this:

    "... After gathering their things together and bidding farewell to their friends at Point A, the travelers set out on their long journey.


    Two weeks later, very tired and thirsty for some of that fine Point B ale, they arrived at their destination ..."

    I'm sure you can do it more artfully than that, but the point is that you don't have to spend thousands of words describing trudging. Skip it and move directly to the next scene that advances your story.
  9. JetMasta

    JetMasta New Member

    Dec 3, 2010
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    QLD, Australia
    I had a simular issue with my fantasy noval atm. I just added little events, some cool machine's, new creture's or if a certain travel part is boring and uneventful, I just skip it and mabe mention how bad the travel was. I also use these parts of the story for filling other parts of a charaters story, eg.

    'a character asking anther character...how the got that scar on their face'

    Youu know, just stuff like that.

    Hope I helped. XD
  10. Allegro Van Kiddo

    Allegro Van Kiddo New Member

    Dec 15, 2010
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    I'm picturing your story as something that takes place a long time ago or in some primitive setting, so I'll go with that.

    I think traveling is a good time to create discussions between characters. They aren't doing anything but walking, riding a horse, flying, etc so they have nothing else to do. When I'm traveling I like to speculate on what happened where we were and what will happen at our destination. Also, making observations about where I'm at is another activity. Only I will be making the observations I do, and my wife will make hers. So, that's our personality coming out.

    I recently moved from the east coast in the US to the Rocky Mountains and it was about 2000 miles of driving. We broke it up into sections, but it was still tough. Each day, I started out fresh and by the end of the day I was a sore and grumpy mess. It was hard to find good food, and there were problems with hotels and many other things. That's in the 21st century, so I can only imagine what it was like in the 10th century.
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

    Jul 5, 2010
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    California, US
    I say skip the travel sequences if possible. They're boring when the writer forces the reader to take part in them but has nothing to say. If you aren't going to move the story along in some manner in these sequences, they're just filler.

    A fantasy novel I read recently dispenses with them unless they're important. Instead, at the end of one chapter it is clear the characters are going to location "X," and the next chapter starts with them arriving at location "X." No boring travel sequence to wade through.
  12. Matthew Lee

    Matthew Lee New Member

    Nov 29, 2010
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    You might check out Around the World in 80 Days. There were so many different types of travel and the tension created by trying arrange transportation at the last minute was great. You also had a policeman who was convinced Fogg was guilty of bank robbery who was chasing him and trying to through roadblocks up at each step while waiting for an arrest warrant that never came. A modern day version could be interesting.
  13. HeinleinFan

    HeinleinFan Banned

    Jan 6, 2007
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    There are several things you can do to make the traveling bits interesting, without bogging the story down.

    1. Depict "typical" travel-related events.

    You haven't talked about the method of travel, but whatever method you use will require some sort of standard ritual. Showing the characters stopping for gas or spare tires or food, showing how the characters break camp, showing the characters playing games or reading or doing chores or singing to pass the time -- as well as the other things they do that are particular to each person. Praying each morning. Feeding a pet cat. Taking a sampling of the local plant life as part of a surveying project.

    You don't need to show many scenes -- just one or two per long journey, with the implication being that these activities take place fairly regularly.

    2. Talk about the differences -- in landscape, customs, language.

    This is fairly straightforward. Your characters should notice when they move from a familiar area to a stranger one, and they should identify some of the things about this new place that make it so strange.

    3. Emphasize the pre-travel planning that goes on.

    Your character may be buying spare vehicle parts, spare tanks of water, spare tools and supplies and food, vitamin tablets, tins of dried bread and jerky and crackers, jars of pemmican or something as a "last ditch" food source, boxes of matches and lighters and lighter fluid and lanterns and lantern oil (or gas) and spare wicks or mantles. Coats and boots and hats. Needles and thread and a patching kit. Pots and pans and a portable oven. Spare weapons and scientific weapons. Spare electronics.

    Then you can zoom to the characters a month later, when they're down to the last of the food and they're desperate for a bath and a bed and a really clean set of clothing. Omit the travel, but show that it happened, and that it affected the characters involved.

    4. Emphasize how nice it is when travel is over.

    Traveling is hard. It's difficult to sleep on the ground, or in cramped quarters. You get sick of the same food, the same routine, the same faces. If people get sick, you have to keep going anyway. Weather can cause delays, and delays mean running out of food or supplies. The kids get really bored and then really annoying to everyone else. It's hard to wash your clothing and dry it afterwards. In some places, if water is scarse, people might have to dry-cook their food, making it taste bad even though it's still nutritious.

    So show the characters arriving at their destination, or at least coming to a place where they can rest and re-stock. Show them splurging -- buying a new book, a new pair of shoes, a bag of candy because they're just sick and tired of the regular food. Show them splitting up just to get away from each other for a few hours. (This can be a plot point, too, if their enemies are trying to nab one or multiple of them.)

    Show the characters relaxing on a real bed, standing on real hardwood floors, stretching their arms and legs, getting the scent of horse or oil or coal smoke out of their clothing (depending on the method of travel, whether it's by horseback or coal-fueled train or by mecha). In other words, show how wonderful it is to have the little comforts back again.

    5. Show the passage of time.

    You can use weather, or wear-and-tear on equipment. You can use height (if there are youngsters along) and muscle tone if some city-slicker is having to work harder on the trip. Hair will grow longer. Beards will grow out. Skin will get darker in the sun, or rougher from wind and work. Callouses will grow.

    Anniversaries and holidays will pass by. They might come to a settlement still tearing down the decorations from Christmas, or Lughnassadh, or the Water Festival; they might pass graveyards with offerings of food on the graves from the Day of the Dead, or see dancers practicing for a festival. They might see people in the fields, harvesting grain, or people guiding plows or sitting on tractors to break up the land before planting.

    The constellations will change, and the planets will move about in the heavens. Plants will grow, and bloom, and die back. Birds will migrate. Your characters might see animals moving about with their young.

    All of this will show the passage of time as something real, not just an abstract concept. And you don't need to spend that many words on it, either. Mentioning the passage of time is something that gets incorporated into other scenes; you don't need to invent new scenes in order to fit this sort of detail into your story.

    6. Combine multiple of the above for maximum effect.

    So the characters are re-stocking, and they're looking for more canned tomatos. Only there aren't many canned ones -- it's the end of the winter -- but there are still plenty of potatoes, and some spiced sausages from last winter. A character notes that he hasn't seen those before, and the proprietor laughs; she figures the characters must have just come from up North, because the peppers used in spicy sausages grow everywhere down South. This combines running low on supplies + planning for the next leg of the trip + noticing local differences.

    A character might want to get away from his fellow travelers, and spend some time at a local restaurant, listening to the strange accents around him and listening to the lute player in the corner playing "Spring Maiden," a traditional planting-time tune. This combines tiredness of travel + noticing local differences + a holiday that can serve to mark the passage of time.

    There are many other combinations. The great thing is that they enhance the story without lengthening it much, and they give information to the reader in a way that feels natural and correctly paced -- info given in bits and pieces, not in huge chunks, and interwoven into the world you've built and the characters you're following. All in all, it's a good way to write.

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