To the Mountains! Thoughts on Writing Travel Sequences in Story

Into the woods

I was looking around recently for some tips and tricks on how to write travel time in a story.  I was amazed at how difficult it was to find anything remotely close to what I was looking for.  Perhaps I was simply using the wrong search parameters, but after sifting through article after article about how to write traveling books I came to the conclusion that there is not enough material readily available on how to actually write the sequences of travel within a story.

Obviously, what you don’t want to do is write a really boring sequence.

“They got on their horses and traveled to the next city.  It took them about three days.”

Feels empty right?  It would almost be better to skip the character’s travel all together than to write something so hollow. So, instead let’s look at a few questions that might help you and me figure out what needs to happen during these sequences.

1.  Why is the protagonist traveling?
One of the biggest aspects of any journey is knowing the why.  What is the antagonistic force doing that is forcing (if it all) the heroes of your story to travel?

Just look at Lord of the Rings;  the main plot point of the story is Frodo traveling to Modor to destroy the One Ring.  Yet, as you read through their journey you don’t fall asleep to the tale because it is exciting and you have an investment and understanding to the reason behind the journey.  Your readers may not know everything, but they need to know enough (and sometimes that means more
than your characters do).

2. What kind of opposition should there be?
What makes any story about a trip worth telling?  The encounters that are eventful.  The best of which are the ones where someone overcomes an obstacle or some other form of opposition.  In your story, what obstacles get in the way of your protagonist (external or internal)?  The mountains they have to scale?  The people that they meet? The wildlife?

Not only can an opposing force help keep your travel sequences more interesting, but it can also provide great opportunities for your characters to grow.

3. What is the experience like?
How do your characters feel about the journey?  Maybe it is the first time the character has ever ridden a horse.  If you know anything about horse riding, then you know that the first time isn’t typically the most comfortable.  What about the weather?  Are your characters having to bundle up from the cold, or perhaps find ways to keep cool from the heat?

Any journey should have an expression of how the you feel and what you experienced.  If you can create an empathetic bond with your reader, you are that much closer to getting and keeping them invested in your story and characters.

I hope you have found this helpful.  I know, personally, just typing these questions out has helped me with this travel sequence I’ve been working on.

Have anything else to add?  Let me know in the comments below!

Until next week,

Grace and Peace.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
                                 -Bilbo, Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
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