Midge Raymond began her workshop on Travel Writing by stating that you do not have to go far to travel write. This may be a misconception preventing many people from documenting an adventure even 20 minutes away from home. “Places are always exotic to someone,” she said. This reminded me of the Japanese exchange student my family had living with us when I was young who was absolutely amazed to see deer wandering the streets of Ashland, something all too familiar to native Ashlanders.
She gave us many tips for character development, most of them along the same lines as Jennifer Margulis’s advice on character development. Midge said to try placing a character in a place he or she would never go, which I think is a great exercise. She also said to pay close attention to how characters look, how they act, and what they say. As always, character development and dialogue are crucial for non-fiction, as well as fiction.
Midge had us do three writing exercises. The first prompt was to describe a person we had seen while traveling, and then describe how that person viewed us. This was one of my favorite exercises. I never thought to describe myself through a stranger’s perception.
The second prompt asked us to describe the sound, smell, texture, and mood of a place. Each sense had to be described on its own. Midge suggested noticing what is different about a place from home, as we often subconsciously seek out similarities to feel comfortable.
Lastly, we had to choose between describing an awful event in a lovely place or a beautiful event happening in a dark place. I chose to write about a positive event taking place somewhere dangerous. This opposition was interesting to work with.
Midge gave us several handouts including travel book and magazine recommendations and a thorough list of travel writing tips. Overall, the workshop was helpful and informative. I am looking forward to writing my research paper on travel writing.