Truck Driver

I used to want to be a truck driver

But I wanted to do it in space, not on the Earth.

Of course I didn’t exactly think of it in those terms. I thought in terms of exploring, discovering, meeting aliens and trading with them. High on the list of my favorite books were Andre Norton’s Solar Queen novels. But I eventually realized that the parts I most enjoyed were those that were planet side. In between, you’ve got long trips in a small tin box that you have to keep in repair, fueled, and going the right direction.

I was crushed. Nope, no career as a Free Trader for me. Yes, I was still very young when I realized that it wasn’t the trip, it was the destination that I wanted. And then I had to admit that I wasn’t ever going to get to explore any real planets either.

That’s Life.

But what about Fiction?

Readers want both. The journey and the destination. As a writer, you have to do your best to give it to them.

And they don’t want it easy, either. They want the main character to have to work for it. There must be a trip, whether physical, mental, emotional, or social. There should be a destination in mind. This could be a place, a person, a state of mind. Or money. “I want to be rich” is a perfectly good destination.

But I write mostly science fiction with a few fantasy elements thrown in. Spaceships, time machines, and dimensional portals.

If the vehicle’s a space ship, the MC has to earn a place in the crew/ build, repair, find or steal the spaceship itself/buy a ticket/stowaway or otherwise have a bit of trouble getting started. Well, OK. I’ll admit to have read books where the MC was already settled in place. That just means he’s about to get very _un_settled.

Once the MC’s aboard, the real trouble starts. A problem with the ship? An attack from outside? An unexpected encounter with a natural phenomena? The hero solves it, only to realize that he’s caused another problem.

Now there can be any number of try/fail sequences, both on the trip, and possibly even the grand finale, the biggest fight, at the destination.

And then, the wrap up. The settling in, in the new place (even if it’s metaphorical, and mostly a matter of emotional maturation) Or the return home. Or the decision to venture onward.

This works in most genres. My characters in one book figure out how to travel across dimensions to parallel Earths. In a later book, the new set of young characters have to earn a place in the Directorate to gain access to the trans-dimensional gates, train to join teams that explore extinct civilizations or protect a scientific expedition to study dinosaurs.

_Getting there_ is a part of the story.

Then you can have more adventures, more try/fail sequences. Until the final battle. Then you get home, more or less intact. Changed. Hopefully improved.

It’s all part of the trip.

Can you see your story as a trip? Is your story the getting there, or is the destination where most of the story takes place?

 

And, shameless promotion . . . hmm, how about a couple of short stories?

Lost Boy
Saturday Night

25 Comments

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25 responses to “Truck Driver

  1. Laura M

    One of the current WIPs is definitely a trip–travellers searching for a new home. Yeah, I know it’s been done.

    The other one, the MC is trying to save someone and has to find out a bunch of stuff. Not sure that’s a trip?

    • Reality Observer

      Intellectual trip, there, probably.

      Actually, I think every “trip” is in the mind of the character, whether they are physically changing position or not. (OTOH, it is very difficult to write something that is only a mental trip – the physical changes make it much easier to “illustrate” the mental changes.)

      • Laura M

        It’s got elements of mystery.
        I noticed someone drawing a distinction between trips and journeys. There can definitely be journeys of discovery, like discovering who’s killing people.

        • Mysteries are often Quest type stories. More of a local hunt than a trip to a different place. Not that a lot of traveling can’t happen while seeking clues.

  2. Good analysis, Pam. I never thought of my books in just that way, but now that you mention it…
    The Wizards Series is about learning to use paranormal abilities; that’s the trip. What to do with them, that’s the journey. Four novels in that series, a fifth one coming later this year.
    Cross-dimension? Yep, the Darwin’s World series. But remaining alive after you get there is the journey. Building a new civilization is the destination. Three novels, a fourth one in progress.
    Building spaceships, that would be the New Frontiers Series (two books so far, one in the ‘contemplation’ stage). Building the ships is only a part of the journey; building a company to exploit space travel, dealing with the political and economic fallout, those are all journeys. As for the destination, that won’t show up until later in the third book. Think of it as a series of way-points on the road, places where the characters take a break before heading off again.
    Shameless self promotion? Who, me?

  3. TRX

    Though you might already be aware of it, John De Chancie wrote a trilogy about a space truck driver before he went off doing fantasies. Try “Starrigger” and “Red Limit Freeway” were not just excellent stories, but they’re in the short list of books I’ll always buy used when I find them; I pass them on to non-readers to get them hooked. Starrigger alone has persuaded three people that there’s entertainment beyond the square screen…

    Not only is it engagingly readable, it’s a good example of how to juggle *many* plot lines without branching off into side-stories.

    • And both of them appear to have Kindle editions. I will now add them to the virtual Mt Toberead, behind Pam’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” which she failed to tell me was available.

      • I would have sworn I announced my Chick Lit witches book . . . somewhere. And yes, that is what my husband called it.

        • You may have announced it some place where I didn’t see it. Announce it/them more often and then maybe I and others will find them.

          • celebran

            Speaking of finding books, I scrolled through Pam’s Amazon list and discovered stories and novella’s in the Wine of the Gods series that I hadn’t read (6,19+) because they weren’t linked in the ‘buy series’ list of books. I picked up the first 4 individually then just clicked the link to get the rest in one order as it was easier that way.

  4. Metaphorical as well as literal. The MC of the current WIP is about to step off a the sailing ship that took him across an ocean. He is the first in his family to leave their land in, hmm, a lot of generations, at least that anyone will admit. (There’s always that crazy uncle . . . you know, the one who headed west and never came back.) When he returns home, he has another physical and emotional journey to make. He’s young, headstrong, hyperactive, and thinks he can take on the world and win. Heh, heh, heh, little does he know . . . The trip is to the new-to-him world. The Journey is becoming a man and a monarch. His people’s journey is to recover the stars, if they can.

  5. celebran

    Thinking about this topic I immediately went to Nathan Lowell’s Solar Clipper series. It’s more on the lines of merchant marine in space then truck driver but a good read and great audio books.

  6. Robin Munn

    A truck driver… in space…

    I’ll just leave this here.

  7. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    One of Arthur Clarke’s “Mars Novels” has the MC as a passenger on the first “Earth To Mars Passenger Liner”.

    It was so “uneventful” (the trip to Mars) that the crew didn’t want to tell him about the minor air-leak in his cabin.

    They didn’t want him to accidently “write it up” as something more dangerous than it was.

    Oh, the MC was there as a reporter and had been a “Pulp SF” writer.

    Part of the beginning of the story was about the MC reflections on the differences between “his stories” and the reality of space travel.

    Mind you, I enjoyed the story. 😀

  8. ” . . . part of a multi-dimensional terrorist plot . . . ” News reporter on the Belgium raids, just now.
    HEY! That’s _MY_ line!

  9. JC

    “There are only 2 stories. “A man goes on a journey”, and “A stranger comes to town”. Walker Percy. But, if you think about it, it’s the same story from a different point of view