The Travel Scene: What It Can Tell Us

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It happened last night. I’ve had writing on the brain and have been slightly obsessing over it. Not in the form of actually getting words on pages, no, that would be too useful! But last night I dreamed about writing, and some of what came of it had me really thinking.

I’m not sure how things led up to this point, but I was with a friend who told me he worked for a publisher and that possibly it could be a good fit for my books. Of course I was interested! But they had some interesting submission guidelines. A lot of publishers like to see the first few chapters to get a feel for the story and your writing. In my dream, this one wanted a travel scene. They may have wanted something else as well, but the big thing they wanted was a scene from my writing where the characters traveled.

A bunch of other stuff happened, including a musical number and me teaching Old English literature, and I don’t know if they ever ended up accepting my MS, but I got to thinking about what certain types of scenes can tell us about writing, stories, characters, and writers. In thinking about what this dream-publisher was looking for, I wonder what they saw in a travel scene.

Character interaction would be huge. Half of what makes road trip movies like Fanboys or even Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure so entertaining are the characters we meet along the way, and the things that the main characters discover about themselves. And one of my favorite parts about Dragon Age: Origins was the camp mechanic: the chance to go back between missions, rest, and speak with your companions, as well as see how the relationships deepened over time.

Travel scenes would also depend heavily on setting to be effective, so a travel scene would show an author’s skill with setting up the area around the characters. Atmosphere, mood, tone, all would be important. I’m listening to Ruin and Rising right now, and the trek through the underground caves helps to create tension and force character interaction in a way that wouldn’t have happened if they were all just walking on a sunny day on the surface.

Finally, I think travel scenes force a character to be resourceful, using what they have at their disposal, and trusting themselves (and sometimes those around them) to get from one point to another. What pitfalls occur along the way? What measure of success is there? What do they lose, and what do they gain? What do they ultimately learn?

I have a travel scene as part of Sneakthief where Nicholas realizes it’s not quite what he anticipated… and has to reexamine his expectations and manage his disappointment, as well as become more resourceful than he’s ever really been required to be before. I feel like that scene can tell me a lot more about him as a character than any of his ones in the library or at home at his family’s estate, because ultimately, the travel changes him. As it does for the team in Fanboys, as it does for Pee-Wee on his quest for his bike, and as it does for us when we travel.

It was a strange dream to be certain; but I’m glad it happened, and glad to have considered what it could mean and what it does for my writing.

Have you had dreams that either make you question your writing, make it into your writing, or have you considering more about writing as a craft? I’d love to hear about it!

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J. R. Rainville

J. R. Rainville is a writer, gamer, and caffeine enthusiast. She's currently working on her original fantasy novel series.

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