Preparing for a Journey: When a Story Hits the Road

Kermit and Fozzie

In Crossing Bedlam and Legends of Windemere: Prodigy of Rainbow TowerI had the heroes go on traveling adventures.  This meant deciding on locations, events for those locations, and how long they stayed in each place.  There’s a lot of organization here that I never really talked about in previous posts.  So, I thought I would give a step-by-step for planning out a journey.  This is going to get a little odd at times because I’m going to try for the steps involved in an Earth story and a Windemere story at the same time.  This way you get to see the overlap:

  1. Decide on the overall story and why the journey is happening.  This doesn’t mean that you know the end, but you know the reason for traveling.
  2. Get a rough idea of how many stops you want for the overall story.  You can always add and subtract later.  Personally, I try to aim high and whittle things down as I move along.
  3. Fantasy: This is when you start plotting your path by listing either the real names or placeholder names of each stop.  You can add marks here for traveling sections as well, but this is optional.  There’s no need to write descriptions just yet.
  4. Earth: Same as #3, but you need to look at a map here.  For Bedlam, I chose the beginning and ending States (For example, New York and California for the first book.) then did a Google driving route.  I would list the other States that appeared along there as well as any that are close enough to make detours.
  5. Here is where you can start writing descriptions of the stops and see if anything comes to mind for a location-based adventure.  Maybe there’s a brief delay that will take a chapter or two to settle.  It helps to treat these like short stories in order to flush out the details.
  6. Fantasy: Choose how long the characters will be at the stop.  Much of what you do here will be decided upon either with the outlining stage or just writing.  With fantasy, you can leave a lot more up to your whims than Earth.  So, this is probably where I’m going to end the Windemere side.
  7. Earth: Choose your cities and towns that you want to use.  Many people stick to the capitals and larger urban centers.  I prefer to have some of those and throw in some smaller towns for fun.  You never know what you will come across when you see a curious name on a map and look more into it.  Most of the stops in Crossing Bedlam and Chasing Bedlam came from this wandering eye curiosity.
  8. Research the stops in an Earth-based story.  It doesn’t have to be extensive, but get an idea of the culture and history of each location.  This can tell you what your heroes might run into.  Agriculture, major corporations, and landmarks can come in handy as well.  The deeper you go, the more real the location will be.  It also means you can avoid locals complaining about your bad depiction.
  9. Design a challenge at each location that connects to your research.  Unlike fantasy, you really should stick to what’s already there.  Don’t add a mountain to a place that doesn’t have one just because you want a climbing adventure.  There are plenty of things to use and you really should look for more unique facts to cling to.  For example, I used Thomasville, Georgia in Chasing Bedlam because it had a connection to roses and I wanted to have a beautiful city among the destruction.  The localized adventure was about slave traders, but this gave me an interesting setting.
  10. If it helps, print out a map and mark it up as you move along.  This way, you maintain an idea of distance and progress.  For fantasy, you can even make your own map to achieve this step.

That’s really it.  Hope you enjoyed it.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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15 Responses to Preparing for a Journey: When a Story Hits the Road

  1. Can you imagine what work there would be without Google maps? You would have had to make the trip in person. (okay that would have been more fun.)

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  2. I like travel in my stories too. You can add the element of pursuit, wild animals, dangerous people along the road, and a lot more.

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  3. L. Marie says:

    Great tips! Maps are so helpful. A calendar also is helpful, especially if you have a multiple viewpoint story. You need to know where the characters are each day, especially if it takes two or three days to get to a place or the characters have to meet other characters at certain stops.

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  4. Very good list, great points on both fantasy road trips and real Earth based trips.
    One question, how do you know just what small details might be with investigating further to tie into a story? Or do you just make something up about the small detail, sayna mural on a wall?

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  5. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this post from Charles Yallowitz from his Legends of Windemere blog with the topic Preparing for a Journey: When a Story Hits the Road

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  6. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

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