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Paul Rand
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Does anyone have any tips on writing about a long fictional journey? In the later part of my (YA?) novel, my teenage main characters have to travel from the west coast of Scotland to the south east coast of England, travelling significant parts of it on foot.

There are quite a few tense and significant moments on their journey, but there are also days in a row for which they just have to plod on. Obviously, I'm not describing each day of their journey in equal detail but I do want to communicate the long hard slog of it without making it a long hard slog to read! And I don't want them simply moving from one inciting incident to the next.

I should add that I my dystopian world, the western Highlands are largely deserted and later in their journey they are trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

Any suggestions?

  • I'd imagine strong dynamics between the two characters would be pivotal in keeping the scenes interesting.

    You're also going to have to infer the passing of long periods rather than actually writing it all. 'Two days of slogging up and down hills with nothing to show but soggy feet, blisters and insect bites...'

    I appreciate what you're saying about not wanting to go from one inciting incident to the next, but you will need highs and lows and more importantly change, or you will lose pace.

    A tricky set of requirements.

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    • I echo what Kate said.  Even if you want to do a day to day depiction, you have to keep the 'slog' to a minimum.  Journeying is boring, even when trying to avoid drawing interest.  But you have to draw the reader's interest.  Putting in a single line to show the passage of time can do that.  I'll reference a novella by Stephen King's pen-name Richard Bachmann.  It's called "The Long Walk."  The entire story is literally nothing but walking.  As the story goes on, the inciting incidents become fewer and more time has to pass between them.  King sums up this passage with a repeated line.

      "The walk went on."

      This and other simple one-liners help King pass the time on an otherwise non-stop narrative of walking.  Using time is another example.  In the story, King has his walkers at dawn.  Then, boom.  He types "Eight-thirty." and there's the passage of time.  He immediately jumps into the next incident.

      I highly recommend the novella if you need to work on boring slogs between points of interest.  It isn't the best story out there but it has some of the tools you're looking for.

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      • I have the same problem with mine, and I once asked an admired author about it. She gave the same advice as Kate and Stephen, and said you can be very brief if you want to skip forward, but still allude to events which you're skipping over. I still remember the example she gave:

        "A week later, four of the horses were dead."

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        • Thank you all of you for your suggestions. The first draft is already written but I know I need to go back and do some ruthless cutting and remoulding. I remember I did try sometimes to skip over days in just a few words but then found myself trying to fill in the gaps with too much detail. The examples you've given have been really helpful and I shall have to try to find 'The Long Walk' to read. Coincidentally, I found myself reading 'The end of the world running club' at the same time as I wrote the first draft of my journey sections. I felt that largely gave me examples of how not to do it.

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