Travel writing tells the reader about visiting different places.
A tourist guide - or a more personal account of a journey - will:
- describe places
- inform about cultures
- explain how to do things
They might also:
- persuade the reader to visit
- advise the reader what to do
- entertain the reader with a creative style of writing
Guides are usually written in the third person whereas personal accounts tend to be first person.
Travel writing can take many forms, such as newspaper articles, essays, journals, blogs and autobiography. It can also be written as a book, telling a longer narrative about a journey or place. Many types of travel writing contain the features of literary non-fiction.
Bill Bryson is a famous travel writer. This extract is the opening paragraph from his book The Lost Continent (1989).
I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.
When you come from Des Moines you either accept the fact without question and settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever, or you spend your adolescence moaning at length about what a dump it is and how you can't wait to get out, and then you settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever.
The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson
An engaging opening
In a fictional narrative, the first paragraph should hook the reader and grab their attention. You might do this by describing the setting and giving specific detail in a way that sets the tone for the rest of the story.
You can also make a convincing start by using dialogue or by dropping your reader directly into action. For example, Suzanne Collins opens The Hunger Games with:
The reader knows the location of the story and the voice of the main character. The hook comes in the final sentence. The reader has to ask ’what is the reaping?’ A successful opening invites the reader to ask questions about the rest of the piece.
An appropriate timeline of events
One way to plot a narrative is to follow a story arc. This structure uses an opening that hooks the reader and sets the scene, followed by an introduction to the character’s thoughts and feelings, a development of the storyline, a turning point and finally a resolution.
This is called a five-stage story and can be applied to most stories. Think back to the last book you read - where were the five points to the story?
For example, Romeo and Juliet:
- Hook - the play opens in Verona, where two families are involved in an ongoing feud against one another.
- Character introduction - we meet Romeo, and then Juliet.
- Development - our two characters fall in love, ignoring their family feud. Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, and is banished. A number of mishaps lead to Juliet faking her own death and Romeo failing to learn of her plan.
- Turning point - Romeo arrives to find Juliet ‘dead’, and takes his own life. Juliet, upon waking, sees Romeo dead and kills herself.
- Resolution - Both families learn a valuable lesson about the consequences of their ongoing conflict: they have each lost a member of their family.
Next time you read a book or watch a film/television programme, consider the five stages of the story - at which point do you discover more about the characters? What obstacles do the characters face? What is the turning point? How is the story resolved in a believable way?