Hi RAD readers! Rani Divine, here. I just got back from vacation, and I have something fun to share with you.
Writers really ought to travel
People nowadays post things online about wanderlust, about wanting to get away from it all, but that's not what I'm talking about when I say that writers should travel. I mean that we need to get out there and experience the world, that we need to meet new people and try new things in order to really write about them. So on my latest adventure, I looked for ways to expand my writing by traveling, and I think I've come up with five good examples for you.
Obviously, people are different. However, they're not as different as you might think. People want the same basic things, they're seeking after the same goals in life. But people from different cultures go about those things a little bit differently. Going on trips, seeing the world and meeting people in every culture and country, helps us to better write about those very people. How are we supposed to have rich and dynamic characters if we don't even meet people outside our own city? Online doesn't count, because it negates a lot of what I'm talking about here. There's a certain understanding that comes from watching people with your own eyes, from listening to them and learning from them. And that's what writers need to do in order to write better characters.
If you never get out of your own city, if you only ever Google the places where your characters are, you'll never be able to adequately describe those places. It's an entirely different feeling to be there, to look upon those sites with your own eyes. For example, I could never have even dreamed of describing the Tower of London to anyone before I went there, but now that I've been, I can tell you all about its details, its features, and the history that resides within it. It's like that with every place. I couldn't have hoped to tell you anything about the Coetir forest if I hadn't first been to one, if I hadn't been inspired by the trees around me. We need to do this, to experience things for ourselves so we can better write about them. All of us.
Countries have different customs. Obvious. But what's not obvious to all is what that means for the individual. For instance, in Europe people eat more slowly at dinner, they take their time and don't even look at the menu until after their first glass of wine. But in the States, we order as quickly as we can and get out as soon as possible so the wait-staff can change the tables. Doesn't seem like that big a deal until you're the person from the States sitting at a restaurant in Paris, trying to get the attention of the waiter so you can pay, go home, and go to bed—because it's eleven at night. Going to other countries helps you to learn things like this, to know what it's like to be the outsider in any given situation. Even little things like etiquette at the dining table can become important for your characters and setting.
People from different countries have different inflections of speech. This is something that I've greatly enjoyed studying for years, to be honest. Sit me down in a room with French people speaking English, and within twenty minutes I'll have matched their exact intonation and inflection. That's how much I enjoy it. But it's also a really good thing to know when it comes to writing. A person from Australia will speak with a different inflection than one from Italy, even if they're speaking the same language—and that's something we miss when it comes to television. They don't generally copy this, because most of the actors in the shows are regrettably not from the country from which their character comes. So get out there, go to other countries, and talk to people. Study their voices and intonations, and implement it into your writing. Your readers will appreciate it.
Almost everywhere you go, there's a mass of history to be learned from the things around you. Traveling is one of the best ways to study those things, to see them with your own eyes. And remember, history repeats itself not infrequently. So look for things that you can repeat in your stories, look for tropes you can work with and ideas to borrow from history itself. It's a little harder to do this in the States, in my opinion, because we're a young country (comparatively). We'll never have the equivalent of going to Britain and seeing things from the Royals, from that far back, because our country wasn't around back then. My point is, get out there. Look for history, and look for things to inspire you.
Those are the five biggest things I brought back with me from my travels, when it comes to writing. Granted, I also came back with some ideas for a novel and some research now completed for another work, but those are for me to know and you to find out. *wink*