Have Words, Will Travel
“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” ~ Moslih Eddin Saadi
I hadn’t done much real traveling in my life before I met my husband. Other than literary traveling, of course. Through reading, I have visited every corner of the earth and corners of worlds that only exist in the imagination. Over the last five years, and this year, in particular, I have explored lots of new places. My recent playground has included everything from mountains to oceans. I have enjoyed quiet scenic views in Tennessee and the vibrant energy of New Orleans. There’s even been an amusement park or two and some boating adventures. I usually tote along my laptop in case inspiration strikes, however, this past weekend I decided not to (and regretted it.)
Finding the Inspiration
When you travel inspiration is literally all around you, regardless of your genre. The trick is to tune into your surroundings and to utilize all your senses. What do you see? What do you smell? What sounds and flavors jump out at you and which ones are subtly in the background. They say brevity is beautiful but I also believe details are important.
Weather: Take note of climate differences when you travel. It’s the little things that lend authenticity to writing. For instance, the way the temperature drops as you travel up a mountain road or the taste of salt in the air as you cruise the gulf coast.
Scenery: I grew up in the south while my husband grew up in the north. When we visited Florida he observed things that blended in for me, such as palm trees. If you mention landscape and such, take note of what will realistically grow in your setting. These silly little details can sometimes throw a reader out of the story.
Culture: In our everyday lives, we can often forget how much culture varies for even our closest neighbors. My trip to New Orleans was a treasure trove of culture. I spent a lot of time in the French Quarter and observed everything from Jazz to VooDoo to artists galore.
People: I love people watching. When my kids were little I would make up exaggerated stories about the people around us. I still do this, sometimes building up a whole character around a brief observation of a stranger. The French Quarter was full of characters and personalities which I captured in a variety of ways.
Capturing the Inspiration
Journal: Carry around a small notebook (or even a fancy leather journal if it makes you happy) and your favorite pen to jot down your thoughts while traveling.
Voice Recorder: Ok, so you may look like your talking to yourself sometimes but this is a really effective way of capturing your ideas in the moment.
Camera: This is my personal favorite tool. Capturing images is quick and easy and gives you a great visual reference when you get back to your keyboard.
Using the Inspiration
When you find your way back to the keyboard after traveling you will have an array of ideas, descriptions, and inspirations to work with. The key is to use these to build authenticity into your writing and bridge your connection to the reader. On my way home from New Orleans, I picked a book at random from my Kindle library. I was pleasantly surprised that the story was set in New Orleans and I could visualize the setting because the writing was spot on. The details that you pull from your reality will become the foundation of your world building.
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Until next time, scribe happy and stay sassy!