Today's post is a little different. It's my first post by a guest writer! Claire Bartlett, author of We Rule The Night, out everywhere now. She talks about being a life long traveler and how that has impacted her and her writing. It's a lovely piece that I can't wait for you to read. So, without further ado...
There are two things I love to do in this world: go places and write things.
It’s not always easy to travel. It’s an expensive hobby between booking tickets and accommodations, and taking the time off work to go. But if you have the chance to travel outside your home country, do it. If you ever have the chance to live abroad, I recommend it even more.
Reading gets compared to traveling a lot. A good book should transport you, right? Well, I think that if a good book has to transport you, a good author should understand the space they’re writing about. How it smells, how the ground feels underfoot. What kind of birds call out in the daytime, and how people gather to relax at night. The world smells different depending on whether it’s snowed or rained - or maybe it hasn’t precipitated at all and we’re long overdue! The magpies that scold me from my parents’ back yard in Colorado are so different from the seagulls that scream on Copenhagen’s harbor.
Side note - those seagulls are the size of small dogs, and nothing is more terrifying than watching one waddle toward you, full of intent, as you stand with your half-eaten pizza slice.
Travel broadened my understand of, well, everything. It certainly helped my worldbuilding technique. Until I lived in Switzerland, I didn’t realize how much the southern part differed from, well, everywhere else. Who would imagine palm trees growing cheerily in Switzerland? The mountains that surrounded me there were massively different from the Rockies, which were massively different from the Brecon Beacons of Wales, where I lived next, which were massively different from the swampy flatlands of Denmark. Out of the dozens of castles I’ve visited around Europe, I can safely say that no two are the same. And when evoking a setting or feeling in my writing, I consider my geography, the places I’ve been, the ways I can put my characters in a space that feels real.
Travel brings you into contact with new cultures and new people, and if you are respectful and pay close attention, you can learn volumes about building your characters. This isn’t about grabbing cultures and appropriating for the sake of diversity or distinction between characters! Look at people as they are - they way they speak, how they’re different in their second versus their first language (you can often get an idea, even if you don’t share that language), how they react to conflict, and the different interests they have! I feel that a lot of characters have lopsided interests in books, whereas people in real life will surprise you with their varied hobbies and knowledge. Meeting people who have been shaped by different cultural forces has been an important part of considering well-rounded characters for me.
Lastly, travel has given me a sense of the deeper things. The wonder of a new and dramatic landscape. The feeling of insignificance under a bright Milky Way. The excitement of setting out on an adventure and the yearning for home when you sit somewhere cold and lonely and think of what your friends and family are doing without you. Evoking emotion is the prime goal in writing, and while I’m not saying you should get abandoned on a desert island to write your desert island novel, you should seek new experiences.
Not only will you have more to write about, but you’ll have done something really cool.
If you'd like to buy or learn more about We Rule The Night, you can find it here. (Affiliate link)
Links of Interest:
Izzy + Tristan: Review Here
Trigger Warnings Show Empathy: Here
Serious Moonlight: Review Here
This Book Is Not Yet Rated:Review Here