Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Writer's Eye

Yesterday's post revolved around traveling and a post-trip  article I'd written that was recently published. It set me to thinking more about travel and writing.

I think writers are more observant than the majority of people because they're always looking for the next story. I find myself looking for stoies when I'm at Walmart. There are a whole lot of stories amongst the other shoppers and the people who work there. Just yesterday, I read about a Walmart employee who foiled a shoplifter, saved a $600 computer from being carried out the door. And what did she get for it? She lost her job because it is against Walmart policy for anyone other than a manager to apprehend a shoplifter, or something along that line. There's a story waiting to be written. Had I witnessed the apprehension, I could have hurried home to write about it. On a personal note--the entire episode made me darned mad, and I hope Walmart gets lots of letters from people who agree with me.

But back to the travel stories. The next time you take a trip, whether to another state, within your own, or overseas, use a writer's eye to see what's there. Don't just be a tourist moving from point A to point B. Delve into the story behind the historical marker you've just read. Look at every facet of a scene that you might exclaim over for its beauty. Just saying "How beautiful!" doesn't give you a story. Often, something you notice in scenery can trigger a memory which can lead to a story. Even a detailed description of somethng like the Grand Canyon can become a travel essay.

If you want to write a travel story, consider what someone who has never been to the place you're in might like to learn. Write the story with enough detail so that the reader feels like she's made a visit through your words. I read a travel article yesterday written by a man who spent a week in Hanoi. He took me to tourist spots, his hotel, the meals he ate, and right into the streets of the city. Streets that a tourist should cross only if he has a death wish. He whisked me through the giant outdoor food market, adding details that made me feel as if I'd walked alongside him. The man obviously travels with a writer's eye.

Keep a notebook handy to jot down notes as you travel. The excitement of something you see tends to fade as you move through your trip. Definitely keep a daily journal when you travel. Write about your entire day, and write about it with a writer's eye. A journal like this will be a tremendous resource for writing travel articles when you get home.


  1. Nancy, so much good info here. I never carry a small notebook and I have to start doing that. It is true that story ideas come and then pass quickly if you don't write them down. My writing teacher suggests the same thing. She suggests a bigger notebook to write in daily, and a smaller one to jot down ideas while you are out.

    I walk Sandy everyday in the park. There is one section where she ALWAYS slows down and walks slightly hunched. A story has been brewing about a boy with a violin looking over into this area of the park. Because of this post, I am going to walk in this section today and see if I get more inspiration. THANK YOU.

    Lastly, please tell me the Walmart story is NOT true.

  2. Lisa, I'm afraid the Walmart story IS true. I read about it in our newspapers, both local and the Kansas City one.