So I read a great post recently by a blogger friend and fellow christian fantasy writer, Gabrielle Massman, titled 3 Tips for Plotting an Action Packed Journey. (You may have already read this post, but if not then you should click the link here and check it out!)
Originally I planned to post a comment with my thoughts on the subject. Then I realized that the comment would end up being half a page long (at minimum) and thought that might be a bit much. LOL
Instead I'll share my thoughts on the topic here.
In her post she lists some pretty important elements to keep in mind when writing about a character/characters who need to travel from Point A to Point B without boring your reader.
The thought I had while reading her post was:
Travel and Journeys should be used to show off your world.
As in, scenes of action, dialogue or even (small amounts of) exposition designed specifically to show off an element of your fictional universe.
In my current WIP I have a world that is now filled with nearly immortal people who treat the locals of my fantasy world like trash. (And sometimes worse)
I also have my MC appear in this new world several miles from where she needs to be.
Now, of course I can just have one of my characters (a local) bemoan this terrible treatment through inner monologue.
I can also rewrite the plot so my MC starts off exactly where she needs to be.
See. Both problems solved.
The main issue with this fix was that it would be boring. The kind of boring that turns your several hundred page novel into a novella.
That's when I stumbled on the idea (probably through divine intervention) to combine the two issues.
I realized I could use her need to travel to create a scene where she witnesses this wanton abuse and tries to stop it. This not only showed off the issue but a faucet of her character as well.
When I realized this I began to see her travel as a God send instead of an annoying plot hole to work out of the story.
There are actually a couple of ways to make this work.
Imagine a character who has to journey through a world that is currently suffering from the affects of a massive civil war.
Now, we can have our MC think about all he/she witnesses. (The exposition method.)
Example: Everywhere I look I see the effects of this pointless war. Starving children beg and steal on the streets I pass. I remember a time when I was one of them, and so feel a strong connection to the little buggers. I wish I could help but I can't. I need to get to the capital. Only then can I really be of help.
The fields are barren. Razed by the passing armies, each trying to destroy resources so the other side will go without. In doing so they have destroyed everything. As I pass the smell of smoke on the wind nearly chokes me. The tears that come to my eyes aren't only from the pain of the smoke.
Maybe not the best couple of paragraphs, but you get the point, right? Our MC is devastated by the war and our readers get to experience this through her observations as she travels.
The second way is through action and dialogue.
"Hey! Stop! Thief!," the baker yells at the fleeing child.
She ignores his angry scream as her legs, so thin I can see her bones, carry her past where I stand. Surely only desperation is fueling her as she runs, and I wonder how her poor bones haven't snapped from the exertion. The only thing clutched in her hand is a small loaf of bread. Not even a meal, really.
The baker huffs after her, reaching me long after she has disappeared. I sneer. if he was as thin as she, he might have caught her. Then again, if she had been as fat as he, she wouldn't have needed the bread enough to steal it.
"Why didn't you stop her," he asks at me from a beat red face.
I shrug, "None of my business."
He snorts and wipes the sweat from his brow. "Worthless little orphan. The King should just round them all up and get rid of them."
"A fine reward for the children of the men and women who fought for our freedom," I say with scorn.
"I didn't ask for this war. And I shouldn't have to suffer for it," the baker replied. "How am I supposed to survive? What is my family to do, now that the grains been destroyed?"
I choose not to respond.
Again, maybe not the best example, but my point stands. In this scene we manage to show off the same elements of this world (starving children, callous adults, a devastating war) as our MC travels through it.
Now while the first method is a viable option, you probably noticed that this second method not only adds punch but also increases the word count. Of course, increased word count isn't always a plus, but in this case it adds to the depth and reality of the MC's travels.
The second method, or a combination of the first and second, should be used if the journey is a main focus in your novel. By doing this you will keep your readers engaged in the travel time, as apposed to having them skipping over it for the juicer bits of your story.
Okay guys, what do you think?
Do you have any thoughts on keeping a stories pace going strong during a characters travels?
As always I'd love to hear from you. Remember to go check out Gabrielle's post.