Inspired by … travel!

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When it comes to brainstorming new story ideas, one of the things that often grabs me strongest is the setting. This probably stems from my passion for travel. My favorite part about traveling besides the food (because FOOD) …

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… is the way it makes me notice what the people who live there see every day with fresh eyes. Every little detail is a novelty, and every new corner holds some surprise. Highlighting the right amount of detail in the worlds we create–providing readers with this same sense of novelty we get when we travel–is part of our job as writers.

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I’m currently polishing a WIP set in the skies over Iceland. The setting came to me before anything with this story–even before the characters. I’ve only been to Iceland once, but it was enough for the haunting landscape to blow me away with its beauty. I tucked away everything I saw in a corner of my mind and waited for the chance to use it.

In contrast, I just got back from an amazing trip to Spain. My husband is from there, his whole family lives there, and we’ve been there to visit too many times to count. I know, I know, I am soooo lucky! I adore Spain.

But … but … I found that I really had to work much harder to capture those little details in my mind this time. For the first time in all my visits, Spain actually felt like home. I’ve become fluent enough in Spanish that I don’t have the language barrier anymore. I know my way around the family’s neighborhoods in Madrid and Valencia. There are even fewer new foods to try and instead favorite standbys I have to make sure to sample while I can.

Luckily, I realized this. I worked harder and opened my eyes and looked for the details. And of course, they were there. Do you see them too?

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35 responses to “Inspired by … travel!

  1. Interesting post (and so happy to have you with us). I sometimes doubt my ability to write about places I don’t know “like the back of my hand”. So far all my books have been set in Maine, which changes every day, but stays the same for decades 😉

    • Oh wow, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that takes place in Boston! I guess I really do live by the words of my post. But I have to say that I love stories other people write that take place in settings they know so well.

  2. Cool post! Always delightful to meet a fellow traveler 🙂 My current WIP is actually set where I live, so it’s been fun going around and playing tourist in my own city. The things we miss when we take our setting for granted!

  3. Travel inspires my writing more than anything, and I totally agree that it’s harder to find that sort of inspiration in a place you know really well. Then again, who better to capture the day-to-day details of a place than a local? It’s great you have found a balance in your travels between familiarity and inspiration 🙂

    Will your next novel be set in Spain? Please say yes! I’d love to travel vicariously!

    • I do actually have a couple of ideas for Spanish stories, but they have to simmer for a while first. You will be among the first to know if they start to bubble up!

  4. I do the same, Kip, with setting usually coming before characters and I’m often inspired by places. My husband’s from Greece and time spent there was the inspiration behind the novel I’m about to publish called The Butterfly Storm – I for one would be interested in reading a novel set in Spain. 🙂

  5. So inspiring – I love traveling! We went to Italy on our honeymoon (ahem, nearly 12 years ago) and I’m still so in-love with all we experienced there! We also lived in Hawaii for a few years, so I get what you’re saying about Spain. At first it was like being on an extended vacation, but gradually became ‘home’. And yes, you are lucky 😉

  6. I’m so glad you had a wonderful time. The last photo is especially amazing to me. Well, that might be because I’m trying to remember what it feels like to swim in the ocean– it’s been a long time. I think your totally right, it’s finding the little special details that make a setting truly sing.

  7. Nice! Your idea for a story set in the skies above Iceland sounds intriguing. I’ve never been to Iceland, but always wanted to go- based on the pictures I’ve seen, I can understand how you found it so inspiring : )

  8. I absolutely adore the idea of a story set in the skies of anywhere, but am so intriqued by your Iceland venue! You amaze me with your eye for the romantic beauty of things.

    I recently traveled along most of the eastern Lake Michigan shore on vacay with my boyLovey. This was also to refresh my mind for the setting of the sequel to my current work. The trick was, this time it was winter. In all my years of traveling this area, I’ve never been in the dead of winter. It was breathtaking.

    • I’m sticking with “futuristic thriller” although I have to make a few last changes in my revisions that might push it more into Sci-Fi territory. I’d kind of wanted to stay away from that since I’m no scientist, but I think I’ve got my technical details lined up now. But funny you mention steampunk since that was one of the directions I’d initially considered. 🙂

    • Nothing wrong with that! The cool thing about realistic settings people know so well is that the details that seem normal to you will still be special and unique to your readers who aren’t from there.

    • Wow! 27 is a lot! But Europe is definitely a good place to hit. Someday is what I say about all the other places I still long to visit!

  9. I travel a lot as well and I find it a great way to never get tired of my own country. Every time I’ve been away, it takes me a couple of days to adjust and it is during that time I notice the “little details” you mention… 🙂

  10. very cool. my husband grew up overseas and has traveled extensively, me not so much. he really wants to go to iceland. interesting setting for a story, especially above it. i’m always more connected to a story when they talk about the food. i think c.s. lewis spoiled me with the narnia chronicles as a kid, always talking about these foreign foods that sounded so delicious.

  11. My 18-year-old daughter went to Iceland, alone, with a tent and a backpack. She spent three weeks hiking all over. I was sooo jealous!! Anyway…the pictures she took are absolutely amazing. It looks like another planet. I thought it would make a great setting for a story. I look forward to reading yours someday!

  12. Definitely! I think travelling someplace for the first time helps us see things through the eyes of a child. Everything sparkles. Everything gives us a sense of wonder.

    In my manuscripts, the most vivid and intense passages (setting-wise) are when a character enters a new world, someplace they’ve never been. All of the little details suddenly come to life. Everything is compared and contrasted with the places they know.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  13. Okay, you’ve definitely peaked my curiosity about the skies over Iceland!

    (And have I mentioned lately that I miss Spain? What I wouldn’t give for some hot chocolate and churros right now, or fuet, or tortilla…lol!)

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