Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by glorybee » Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:30 am

Here’s a list of tips for writing travelogues:

1. A travelogue is a great opportunity to work on using imagery—and remember that imagery is not just words describing things that are seen, but words that evoke all of the senses: smell, hearing, taste, touch, movement, and bodily sensations like temperature, hunger, illness, desire, sleepiness and the like. (You can review the lesson on imagery here.)

Be careful, too, not just to indicate images with adjectives that really don’t tell the reader much.

POOR: The market smelled exotic and foreign.
BETTER: The aromas of cinnamon and chilies hung in the air.

POOR: I heard beautiful music from unusual instruments.
BETTER: A constant thrumming from goatskin drums took residence in my throat.

Note, too, that in the examples I’ve just given, the strongest words are nouns and verbs (cinnamon, chilies, hung, thrumming, throat). The adjectives in the poor examples (exotic, foreign, beautiful, unusual) are too general, and could mean different things to different people. The adjectives in the better examples (constant, goatskin) add more specificity to the imagery.

So—adjectives aren’t bad, and you’re going to need them in your travelogue. Make sure that you pick them with intention, and also use strong, specific verbs and nouns as much as possible.

2. Your travelogue should not read like a school report about the place that you have visited. You should not write a series of facts and statistics about that place; rather, you should convey its essence by relating your experiences there. It’s fine if, in the course of your narrative, the reader picks up a fact about that place that she didn’t know before.

POOR: Although Elbonian is the official language of Elbonia, over 80% of the native population speaks a dialect of English, developed after years of commerce with English-speaking nations.

BETTER: I was startled to discover that most of the residents of Elbonia speak a lovely English dialect. I had practiced several phrases in Elbonian, but after I mangled ‘na tistee abrul?’ (where is the restroom?), a kind woman patted my hand and said, ‘ober dere, missy, you fine da room you seek.’

3. You may write about a town or city, a state, a country, or even a landmark or attraction (like a national park, for example, or a tourist attraction). Whatever place you choose to write about, use all of the best tools of good writing to make it come alive:
• Excellent word choice (why use a rice cake word when a salsa word is available?)
• An engaging voice. Use your writer’s voice to set the tone for this piece—wonder, exhaustion, humor, sorrow—whatever you felt when you were there
• A variety of sentence and paragraph structures that contribute to the pacing and flow of your writing. Don’t forget transitional phrases.
• This really shouldn’t have a typical story arc (where there are fully developed characters, and conflict, climax, and resolution, for example), but it can contain small anecdotes (like the one above in #2).

4. Some of you might be saying, “But I’ve never traveled anywhere!” Keep in mind that this does not have to be an exotic foreign location. If you’ve traveled to a town that was new to you—write about that. However—if you just absolutely can NOT think of a travel experience worth writing about, you can write fiction for this week’s topic. If you do, you should still keep the previous three points in mind, and not write a story about someone who traveled. It should feel just like a nonfiction travelogue would: as if you actually had traveled to that place and experienced the culture or the atmosphere there. And if you write this as a piece of fiction about a real place that you have never, in fact, visited, then be sure that you have your facts about that place correct.

5. Just to be sure you’re clear on the difference between a travelogue and a story about a person who traveled, take a look at these two brief passages:

a. On the second day of our journey into Elbonia, I found my breathing becoming shallow and labored, even when we were merely ambling along the narrow, cobbled streets. Finally, I had to stop and rest, sitting under the shade of a tiktu tree. Our guide brought me a glass of something cool to drink, explaining that the altitude and humidity often affected visitors. Later, I learned that the glass had contained alpaca milk mixed with a powder of dried insects.

b. I tossed my favorite red dress into my suitcase at the last minute—who knew whether I might spot Mr. Right in Elbonia? And if he was there, I wanted him to see me, even if there were crowds of locals milling about. I thought maybe I saw Mr. Right on the plane, in fact, in the seat across the aisle. But when I saw what he was reading, I changed my mind: it was an Archie comic book.

The first selection could be part of a travelogue: it’s about the place, as experienced by the narrator. The second selection is more obviously part of a story; it’s about the narrator, who happens to be going to a place.

6. It should be written in 1st person and past tense. Notice that both of the examples in #5 are in 1st person and past tense, but only the first one would work as a travelogue.

7. This website has some excellent, short examples of travel writing from some famous writers (you have to scroll down just a little bit to get to the links).

HOMEWORK:

Make a comment or ask a question about writing travelogues. OR

Link to a travelogue that you have written. If you do this, please don’t just give us a link; tell us something about your writing process.
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Fri Nov 07, 2014 2:21 pm

I have two questions.

1) Can the travelogue be written in the present tense?

2)
glorybee wrote:For this challenge, you should attempt to communicate the essence of some place where you have traveled, so that a reader who has never been there can experience it, if only vicariously.
What if the author has a one track mind? :lol: For example, different people notice different things. The things that interest me in my travels, might not interest someone else. What I consider to be the essence of a place might not resonate with someone else.

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by glorybee » Fri Nov 07, 2014 2:32 pm

Cinnamon Bear wrote:I have two questions.

1) Can the travelogue be written in the present tense?

2)
glorybee wrote:For this challenge, you should attempt to communicate the essence of some place where you have traveled, so that a reader who has never been there can experience it, if only vicariously.
What if the author has a one track mind? :lol: For example, different people notice different things. The things that interest me in my travels, might not interest someone else. What I consider to be the essence of a place might not resonate with someone else.

Cinnamon Bear
1. There's no rule engraved in stone about this, but a present tense travelogue would not really have the tone expected of a travelogue. It is, after all, a report of your travels in the past. Present tense moves a piece of writing into another mood altogether. If you chose to write in present tense, though, it wouldn't be disqualified. I can't guarantee that it would have the necessary travelogue "feel" for the judges and your readers.

2. That's true of anything we write, isn't it--that it's filtered through our own unique perspectives? So it's our job as a writer to convey those experiences in such a way that they'll interest our readers, even so. I'm not in the least bit interested in traveling to Los Angeles--but if someone who has been there were to write an interesting, engaging travelogue about it, I'd certainly be willing to read about it. And if it's written very well, I might change my mind--or if it's written very well, it might solidify my intention never to go there.

No matter what type of writing we do, there's no guarantee that it will resonate with every reader. In fact, there IS a guarantee that it will NOT resonate with every reader. So we just write as beautifully as we can.
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Fri Nov 07, 2014 3:40 pm

Thanks, Jan! :)

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by Ex2320 » Fri Nov 07, 2014 4:57 pm

Can the main emphasis of the travelogue being "getting there'?" I'm contemplating writing about going to a war zone with the emotions and sensations of getting there and back. Would this qualify as a "travelogue"? Thanks much.
New to writing, love it. Desire to share my faith walk and to better understanding how to use words to communicate God's lessons; revealing Him through His world.

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by glorybee » Fri Nov 07, 2014 5:04 pm

Ex2320 wrote:Can the main emphasis of the travelogue being "getting there'?" I'm contemplating writing about going to a war zone with the emotions and sensations of getting there and back. Would this qualify as a "travelogue"? Thanks much.
Not really. Although that sounds like a great story idea, you might want to save it for a prompt for which it is better suited. The essence of a travelogue is really to convey the sense of a visit to a place. Alternatively, if this story is just begging to be written, you could write it and submit it to Regular Articles.

By the way, since Writing Challenge entries are to be anonymous, it's probably not a good idea to post really specific ideas like this anywhere on the forums. A judge might stumble upon it, and recognize your idea later when she reads the entries, and be able to connect it with your name. Please don't worry--it's not a huge deal, as our judges are all very professional (and in all likelihood wouldn't see this, anyway). Just something to keep in mind for the future.
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by Ex2320 » Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:02 pm

Thanks Jan.
New to writing, love it. Desire to share my faith walk and to better understanding how to use words to communicate God's lessons; revealing Him through His world.

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by alanrkane » Sat Nov 08, 2014 4:37 am

removed as giving to much info
Last edited by alanrkane on Sat Nov 08, 2014 9:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by TracePezzali » Sat Nov 08, 2014 9:21 am

Hi Jan, I'm really keen on this genre and itching to get words to paper.what a way to glorify God in describing His incredible creation.
I'm wondering how much practical info to put in. Should there be an aspect of a Lonely Planet guidebook in explaining briefly the distances to the location, if 4wd is best, how much it costs to get in if it's a national park... Or is it more like relaying it to a friend crossed with a detailed succinctly written diary entry?
In other words how much background and instructive info is required?
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by glorybee » Sat Nov 08, 2014 9:51 am

TracePezzali wrote:Hi Jan, I'm really keen on this genre and itching to get words to paper.what a way to glorify God in describing His incredible creation.
I'm wondering how much practical info to put in. Should there be an aspect of a Lonely Planet guidebook in explaining briefly the distances to the location, if 4wd is best, how much it costs to get in if it's a national park... Or is it more like relaying it to a friend crossed with a detailed succinctly written diary entry?
In other words how much background and instructive info is required?
Trace, I'd avoid the "guidebook" aspect, and concentrate on the experience.
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by tracynunes » Sun Nov 09, 2014 11:24 pm

An excellent lesson Jan! Your original post and answers to the questions were extremely helpful and greatly modified what I planned to do. Thank you!!
Tracy Nunes

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by GrannyR » Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:53 pm

Jan, I appreciate your lesson on Travelogue. I wasn't able to enter mine in the challenge, but I am relieved to learn that my thinking was on the correct track.
Brenda Rice
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by TracePezzali » Tue Nov 18, 2014 7:39 pm

Hi Jan, I notice how much the entries vary so much in this week's genre. Out of interest, is a travelogue piece that is Christian bent more pleasing to the judges? There were some amazing submissions that were based on ministry trips with a strong message. Will these take the cake over a travelogue form focused most on describing the landscape itself?
Trace Pezzali

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by Deb Porter » Tue Nov 18, 2014 8:07 pm

LOL ... jumping in again (as the Challenge Coordinator).

Simple answer. No. The best writing that fits the topic, even with no Christian input, wins. In fact, sticking to a very spiritual non-fiction angle for some of these genres has worked against those entries at times. In other words, if someone submits a devotional for the Suspense/Thriller Genre Challenge, they are not going to do all that well. That's because that word "genre" is very specific. However, that's for this quarter only. Next quarter will be a return to the typical prompts.

Hope that answers the question. Having said that, if a really beautiful piece of writing with a Christian message is the best article for the week, then that will win. So it doesn't work for or against. We just look for great writing that fits the criteria. (If you check the judging criteria, you'll see there is nothing that asks about the Christian content. http://www.faithwriters.com/Boards/phpB ... 54&t=31273 )

Love, Deb
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- TRAVELOGUE

Post by glorybee » Tue Nov 18, 2014 11:12 pm

What Deb said. :D
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