We’ve all been there. Stalking an enemy until we find the perfect chance to strike or discover their hideout. Then the author falls asleep or gets bored and throws the entire scene into chaos.
Having one character follow another can be tedious, especially if it lasts for a chapter. I’ve seen it done different ways too. Some authors only have villains do tracking, so it’s in the background. Others have the trackers so far away that they can talk and the physical act is secondary. Then there’s avoiding such scenes entirely. I like having some tracking scenes since Luke is a forest tracker. Pointless to give him the skills and never have him use them. I tend to fall into that second category, but there are ways to make it interesting.
- Have the prey throw in some tricks like crossing water and backtracking. This makes them appear more cunning and the tracker more talented. It requires that the hunted knows they’re being followed, which makes sense. If you knew you were being tracked then you probably wouldn’t run in a straight line.
- Remember the senses. This sounds silly and obvious, but we tend to go with visual over others. Humans don’t have the best sense of smell and hearing can be iffy, but you can still use them. Consider that a tracker has trained these senses to be keener and more focused instead of letting them run in the mental background. Even with this, touch is incredibly important. A tracker can feel print depth, warmth from an abandoned fire, and changes in the wind to use while on the hunt.
- If you go with a scene where the heroes are far enough back that they can speak then you can have the tracker explain what they’re doing. Others in the group probably don’t know what’s going on and are curious. Some could ask or the tracker can simply explain the signs to make sure people are ready. This also reveals more of what is ahead and prepares the reader. Perhaps the prey has deeper prints for some reason or they have begun walking with a different stride. Did the heroes lose the trail or is there something waiting up ahead?
- Now, what if you have a solitary tracker? You can do two things here. Either they speak to themselves when far enough away or you use internal thinking. Describe their movements, responses, and reactions both in the physical and mental realms. For example, Luke is on the trail of orc bandits and he’s having trouble sifting through all of the footprints. Some are the thieves while others are from another group that could go off in another direction. He has to think and work to distinguish the paths, which can be shown through internal dialogue or exposition.
- Always fun to have something go horribly wrong. Tracking is such a delicate thing in fiction that it wouldn’t be surprising for the roles to reverse. More than once too as the predator and prey keep trying to one up each other. You could probably draw this out for a chapter too.