Journeys make me think. Or dream. Or in just gazing out of the window at passing scenery, my brain goes into another place to imagine a new story. I know I’m not the only one to whom travel has this effect. J K Rowling famously planned Harry Potter from start to finish on the way down to London by train. Her use of railways paper napkins for notes is a salutary reminder to any budding author to have a notebook or an iPad for notes at all times!
Journeys by road, train or air?
Does it matter, which form of transport?
My preference is for train. You get a much better view of the landscape than by plane, and that seems to inspire me more. I love getting snatches of some situation as you go past – people in the fields, a boy looking at his bike chain at a level crossing… you know the thing. Landscapes do something to my brain, too. Expand it, or something like that.
On holidays where you get lots of bus time in, that can be excellent, especially with different scenery from usual which is, nonetheless, somewhat the same for hours, like on my trip to Iceland. All sorts of things strike me during these sessions, some of which can be formed into questions to ask the guide, other which are best kept to myself. The drawback of buses is that I am unable to write on a bus, or any car mode. Travel sickness will inevitably strike. I have to jot down any deep thoughts that I need to follow up as soon as I stop.
The same applies to planes; writing is not advised. I can read on planes, but I’ve never needed to write anything. Maybe it’s the lack of view, save for endless layers of clouds and blue. I love looking out at them. Although I did manage to scribble ‘flash re sunglasses that make her irresistible when on‘ on the back of my boarding card recently.
I do a lot of thinking when driving, too. It usually sorts out problems I’m having, whether with life or books, but I rarely remember what happened by the time I stop. It seems to be sufficiently inside me to come out again, although never in such good phrasing!
Favourite Journeys for Inspiration
Anything with mountains. They don’t have to be close, just visible. I don’t remember getting any bright ideas on my way across Saskatchewan, but as soon as I saw mountains in Alberta…. Long, flat, ‘uninteresting’ scenery can be very useful, though – since it gets me back into my ‘Carruthers’, a sort of Victorian/Edwardian explorer mode. I like putting him in horrible places.
I usually put my characters through journeys. I think it’s good for the reader to join them in their troubles!
Here are Dylan and Dougall with Kevin, in the latest Princelings book, traversing Rannoch Moor. In the rain, of course!
Kevin wondered how Dylan could be so cheerful when he was cold, wet, tired, and presumably hungry. They’d finished their lunch, but Kevin could have eaten twice that again.
“Shall we move on again before we get cold?” Dylan asked.
Everyone got up, and Dougall and Kevin got behind Dylan again.
An hour later the sleet gave up, although the wind still swept over them. They paused to look around. The moor spread black, purple, cream, and fawn around them in all directions. Dylan got his compass out.
“That way is south, and it seems to go on until it reaches that high ridge. The way east looks like it starts to dip down, but I think those are high hills beyond. What do you think, Kevin?”
“I see a ridge of mountains with white tops. They’re a long way off, though.”
“We’ve been going a little north of east, and to me it looks like the edge of the moor is not far in that direction. Do we want to get off the moor or head more southeast?”
“Off the moor,” said Kevin.
“Head southeast,” said Dougall at the same time.
Dylan sighed. “I was afraid of that. I suppose it’s my decision, then.” He paused for a moment, judging the light, the weather and the lack of easy routes. “I think we should get off the moor, so we can find some shelter for the night. We don’t want to spend another night up here in this cold. Are you ready? Come on then.”
They plodded on for another hour, taking heart that the clouds were lifting, or maybe it was that they were finally going downhill. The water seemed to trickle rather than ooze between the tussocks now, and they hoped it would soon become a stream, cutting its way downhill. The wind diminished to a light breeze. Kevin poked his nose out from behind Dougall and sped up to walk beside Dylan. He wanted to lead for a while.
“Aiee!”Kevin lost his footing and felt himself sinking rapidly into the cold, fibrous, gloopy mud. He thrashed around to find a tussock, or a root, or something he could grab hold of, but his cold hands refused to grip on anything, just sliding over little roots and strands of marsh plant. He could feel hands on his back, but his ears were already under the surface. Something was sucking him down, like the great monster of the moor he’d heard about in stories. He looked up into a shaggy face and tried to scream, but water came into his mouth. It was gritty and acrid and tasted of dead things. Hands pulled his shoulder and the other side of his coat. He flopped out onto a tussock, coughing and spitting the foul liquid from his mouth, and shaking bog from his ears.
“Crikey, that was close. Another few seconds and I reckon we’d have lost you.” Dylan moved to Kevin’s side and rubbed him all over, trying to warm him up. Dougall did the same on the other side.
The Princelings of the North, Ch 7 © J M Pett 2018
What about you? Do you find journeying helps?