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Posts tagged ‘travel’

Family, travel, and research

I’ve gotten into a bad habit on the weekends, namely: doing stuff. My husband has said I need to quit it, and sit home and relax. He’s right, but that doesn’t change the fact that I work five days a week, which leaves two to do things in. Like writing, although that’s not usually what I’m doing, and it definitely isn’t what I’m doing this weekend.

This weekend I’m traveling all over Kentucky with my Mom, and two of my kids. We’re looking at houses for Mom, I am conducting research, and the kids are having a broadening experience (translated: bored stiff and playing games on electronic devices in the backseat). On the first leg Mom and I chatted about a number of topics, but I thought a couple were relevant to writers.

Traveling for research is one. I’ve been to KY often enough, but on this trip we’re in areas unknown to me. For a change I’m not driving, so I can watch the scenery go by and get a feel for the region, at least until it got dark. But traveling through an area where you’ve set a book is an excellent idea. Deeper research is even better. The internet allows us to virtually explore, but there’s no real substitute for going somewhere and seeing it up close. The first leg was an overview from interstates and highways, tomorrow we’ll be on tiny back roads for hours. And checking out old houses which is an adventure of a different flavor.

I’d not say that you must visit an area to set a book there. I do think, as Mom and I talked about how much traveling we’ve done (multiple cross-country road trips, travel up the Alaska highway, and others) and where we’d still like to go, that traveling for research is vital to adding little details you might otherwise overlook. Of course, interplanetary travel isn’t possible yet, but seeing more locales on Earth make you better able to write a world with a realistic and varied biome. If you never leave home, you just don’t think about how big our world really is.

We passed a sign for the Lincoln Homestead and started talking about pioneers, what they endure, and tracing some of their paths can inspire not only stories set in the past, but what our future wave of pioneering to the stars might feel like. I talked about seeing a cabin where Dan’l Boone had wintered, with four or five other trappers, and how tiny it was – maybe ten by twelve. She in turn talked about seeing a winter camp in Alaska of a party on their way to the Gold Rush who had been wintered in, a hundred people, families and all, who hastily constructed several ten by twelve cabins and crowded in then to endure the deep cold. The cabins, erected in the 1880s, still stood when she was a girl, their roofs fallen in but otherwise intact. I have trouble imagining months stuck in a single room with several people… Even family!

Getting out and seeing for ourselves is the best way for a writer to create, taking all the odds and ends and blending them up into something new and beautiful. Plus, you can write off research traveling!

Greetings From the Road

I’m on the road traveling today. I’m writing this from a Waffle House in Georgetown, KY. We’re sitting down to a hearty breakfast after about two hours of driving. We have about another ninety minutes ahead of us, so this seemed to be a good place to stop and rest a bit.

I always wind up driving on these trips, partly because it puts me on the side of my husband’s good ear, so we can talk without me having to shout. It works well, because while we travel, we talk. And he plots at me. Well, his nickname is the Evil Muse for a reason! I tell him where I’m stuck on the work in progress, and we talk it through until he Sparks enough ideas off my work for me to catch fire on the work again. Of course, I’m driving and can’t start writing immediately, so that’s a little frustrating, but it helps!

There’s something about being stuck in the car for hours that feeds the creative brain. At least that’s how it works for me!

I’m going to have breakfast, and throw open the comments for you all to chat, I’ll try to check in later when I’m not visitin’ and answer any questions.

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