Travel and Writing

Travel and Writing
Terry Odell

Writing While TravelingAs I write this, I’m preparing for a photo safari, led by my son. (And, no, I don’t get a discount.)

As you read this, I should be on a yacht on the Adriatic Sea, traveling from Split to Dubrovnik. If things go as planned, and I did the calendar calculations right, today I’m en route from Korcula to Mljet, where the published itinerary says:

In the morning head further south to the Island of Mljet. Join the Cruise Manager for a stroll to the famous salt lakes in the Mljet National Park. Lunch on board and departure for a small village called Slano on the mainland, a peaceful fishermen’s village and the starting point to Ston, another once fortified small village famous for its oysters situated on Pelješac peninsula. Pelješac peninsula is known as one of the best wine-producing regions in Croatia. After exploring the town, we leave to a small nearby village to enjoy the authentic local oyster tasting. Tonight, enjoy Captain’s dinner and overnight in Slano.

Writing While TravelingA while back, I talked about dealing with far away settings in your writing. What am I going to be doing on this trip as far as writing is concerned? (And being able to write off travel expenses is a great motivation for incorporating the setting into a book.) When we toured the British Isles, I thought I’d write a short, sappy romance and be done with it, but I’m not wired that way. There had to be some sort of mystery. I figure that’s what’s going to come out of this trip, too.

I also have a manuscript due next month, so I’ll be spending some time on that, too. How much is unknown, as we’ll have a busy schedule, but my “spare” time will be divided between researching a new book and working on the one I have to finish.

First, the “Can’t/Won’t do” stuff.

  • Use Croatians as protagonists. That would require far more research then I have time for.
  • Have my protagonists solving crimes. They have no jurisdiction in another country.
  • Opportunities for dead bodies might present themselves (like finding a body in a tun in a whisky distillery in Scotland), but realistically, American citizens can’t investigate crimes in other countries, and if they’re on a tour, they’ll be somewhere else the next day.

The “Can do” stuff.

  • Do informal investigating as long as it doesn’t interfere with the local law enforcement.
  • Offer insights and observations to the officials in charge.

What will I be doing?

  • Taking pictures, of course, both what my first photography instructor called “record shots” and the more creative ones that our group will be taking.
  • Noting the food (a given for me)
  • People watching to come up with and flesh out characters.
  • Talking to others on the tour, and the boat crew.
  • Taking note of the climate.
  • Taking note of anything “Croatian” that will add depth to secondary characters.

What I don’t have is a plot, or much of a plan. I want to let the experience drive the story, not me trying to force a preconceived idea into what I find there.

I do know that I’d like it to continue what I began with Heather’s Chase: Not a sequel, but another stand alone novel marketed as “An International Mystery Romance” which leaves the door open for more. That means I’ll need a hero and heroine. They’ll probably meet on the tour, simply because that’s the genre expectation. They’ll have conflicts, but will be drawn together by the mystery in some way. Maybe working against each other, but eventually, they will have to have that promise of a happily ever after.

As I write this, I have no idea what kind of connectivity we’ll have on this trip. I doubt I’ll be around to respond to comments, but I know everyone here at TKZ will carry on the conversation.

What travels/locations have inspired your writing? What advice do you have to share?

Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellAvailable Now Trusting Uncertainty, Book 10 in the Blackthorne, Inc. series.
You can’t go back and fix the past. Moving on means moving forward.

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

13 thoughts on “Travel and Writing

  1. This travel inspiration goes back to 1995.

    My son was in the Marines, and we drove down to Quantico, VA for his graduation from Officer Candidate School. We rolled into Quantico around 9 PM The night before. Tired and hungry, we checked into our room, and headed out for food. I don’t know if it has changed, but back then Quantico looked like a movie set for the 1950s. The commercial district of consisted of one main street about half a mile long. There were four barber shops open for business, but only one place open to eat: an eerily quiet dive bar with no women, college kids, or underage youth inside, only a few buzz-cut headed men drinking beer and playing pool.

    As soon as we got back to our room, I wrote down every detail I could remember about the bar, the clientele, the ambience, and how the street looked in the dark. A few weeks later, I wrote a short story about a stranger trying to blend into a town like Quantico that was published in a literary journal.

    My advice is nothing revolutionary. Take photos if you can. (I couldn’t do that inside the bar.) As soon as possible after an experience, record every detail, especially those hard to recreate later, like the smells, the interactions among people—how close they sit or stand in proximity to each other, how they react when a stranger (that’s you) enters their area, and how you felt when entering their area.

  2. Terry, safe travels! I’m glad that you didn’t ask any of us to pick out your locations on a map.

    I hope you enjoy every mile and you don’t get stranded anywhere. Be well.

  3. Terry, what a fabulous trip. Wish I could have stowed away in your suitcase.

    A couple of ideas come to mind:

    The protagonist could be the victim of a crime or the witness to a crime. S/he then has to stay and be part of the investigation.

    I knew a man who died literally from eating a bad oyster. That would make a different murder weapon.

  4. The second time we visited Mexico, my wife and I stayed three weeks in the village of Buena Vista, about a hundred miles south of Mexico City. Instead of playing touristas, we got to know the people. We attended birthday parties and local celebrations. And we heard their stories about the drug dealers. My experience there inspired my first book, Aztec Midnight.

    Online research alone could never have given the work the authenticity of being there.

  5. Good morning, Terry. Hope you are having lots of fun and are taking many pictures.

    My travels that inspired my writing: 3 months in Costa Rica during college. Lots of opportunities to travel, take pictures, and get to know the people. This year, I just finished a Vella serial, Petrol Tree, in which the MC was a Costa Rican honors student doing research in both the US and Costa Rica. Great way to relive the memories and research what has changed in the country.

    Have a safe trip, and bring back lots of pictures to share with us in your blogs.

  6. Safe travels, Terry, and enjoy your experience! I know you’ll come up with an interesting story out of it.

    Although my husband and I have been fortunate to have traveled widely, I haven’t included any trips in my stories. However, I have been thinking about having my protagonists visit a distant relative in Scotland and let the mystery unfold in a Scottish castle. (On a visit to Scotland some years ago, we spent quite a bit of time looking for the location where “The 39 Steps” was filmed. We received lots of misdirection from the local folks!)

    You’ve got me thinking now.

  7. Safe travels, Terry! What a wonderful trip. So much history and beauty in that corner of the world.

    I’ve used locales from Iceland and Ireland in my Empowered series, as well as the Olympic rainforest and British Columbia. Fun to put in places I’ve visited. My advice is simple and probably very obvious: close your eyes and visualize what it was like to be there. I find that I have vivid recollections for places in other countries I’ve visited, more so than U.S. places (though I still have those). It could be, too that with our 2019 Iceland and Ireland trip, it was the last big one we took.

    Enjoy your travels!

  8. Going somewhere by boat is better, but not everyone has that option. There are YouTube how-to videos galore, full of hints for cruise passengers. The beauty of these is that they succinctly describe the full spectrum of behaviors and sensitive areas. Some even give you a look at the cruise from an employee’s POV, something you may not get from an IRL trip.

  9. My mystery series moves, book by book, to places that I’ve visited and loved. I take tons of notes and photos, and I find guide books to those places to assist in the writing. Beach bum part time journalist Blanche Murninghan has gone from home on Santa Maria Island FL to Mexico City and Vietnam and Ireland next.

  10. My husband and I were married at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and spent a month exploring South Africa and Zimbabwe. I used the setting in the first book of series, Lions and Lambs series. Nothing beats the experience of being there, does it? The sights, sounds, smells, and even feeling the air, the climate. 🙂

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