Thursday, June 04, 2009
Hi! Thank you so much for inviting me to blog here today! I’ll be giving away a copy of one of my Harlequin Blazes, ONE FOR THE ROAD, to someone who comments on this blog. Check back tomorrow morning for a winner….
Now, onto the topic… There are a lot of wonderful things about writing for a living: arranging your own schedule, actually making money from your daydreams, and giving free rein to your creativity. But, for me, traveling is the very best part.
Every trip I take is an opportunity for a story, whether it’s a casual weekend cruise with friends to Mexico (Check out my story in the Blaze anthology JINXED for that one.), a longer trip to London for devoted research (my most recent Vampire Babylon trilogy written as Chris Marie Green), or a road trip to write a chick-lit story that became a different book altogether (ONE FOR THE ROAD). I think that when you experience a setting firsthand, it becomes a strong character in your book, and that’s worth every penny you spend.
For my latest release, a Blaze called WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN… (June, 2009), I used a trip to Japan to build the setting of my novel. The rain-slicked night streets of Tokyo not only became its own character for me—I think it added to the development of the characters, too. In this Romeo and Juliet type story, the hero and heroine hail from two feuding families back in the States but decide to live for the moment with each other in exotic, erotic Japan, so there was plenty of opportunity to use my travel experiences in karaoke “snack bars” and even a ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel.
What are some steps I normally take to make sure my travels lend to a story?
1. This sounds really obvious, but bring along a little notebook that fits in your pocket or purse. I even forget to do this sometimes, LOL. I can’t tell you how many times I sat on a bus, thinking about where I was, observing, coming up with a phrase to describe my experience, and then…forgetting it. All you have to do is whip that pad out and scribble down your impressions, and your words are gold when it comes to writing time. Also, when you take pictures, it’s great to be able to reference what exactly it is you were looking at, plus sensory details. I wrote WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN… a few years after my Japan trip, but with my notes, it felt like I was there again.
2. #1 leads right to another point—when you get home every night, try to journal, if possible. I’m not just talking about notes, I’m talking about full-on thought expansion, where you let yourself flesh out your experiences of the day. This also serves as the best souvenir ever; I go back to my travel journals all the time to see where I was at in my life on a personal level, too. Besides keeping a journal, you might want to keep a blog, if you have one. (To see my own travelblog from Japan, you can click here!)
3. Allow yourself to stop, sit, and take it all in. Oftentimes during travel, we’re so busy “doing” this or that (“Have you done a temple yet? Have you done Kyoto?”), we don’t take time to realize we’re there and how amazing it is. Sit on a park bench and look at the people around you. Linger with a glass of plum wine and look down on the streets below. Enjoy.
4. If you’re traveling with someone else, think about taking off alone for a day. Not to be antisocial, but I love this, especially if I’m on a long trip. I find that I’m even more aware of everything around myself because I’m not chatting with another person; also, personal space can be refreshing. And, if you meet your partner for dinner that night, you’ll have a ton of fresh things to talk about. You’ll find yourself describing your experiences to them in a way that gets you thinking about how to put these nuggets into your book.
5. Be the person you aren’t back at home. I’m not only saying this because that’s just what my hero and heroine do in WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN…, but traveling is the perfect opportunity to test yourself…and to think about how your characters might do the same. Would you be petrified of singing in front of other people? In Japan, you’re treated like a rock star in a karaoke bar, no matter how badly you sing, and everyone should feel like that at one time in their life. Would you swear that you’d never bungee jump off a bridge? Maybe, during a trip to New Zealand, you’ll get an unforgettable rush that’ll persuade you to live more “loudly” at home. Your characters might learn the same thing.
I hope every one of you gets to try these tips sometime. Meanwhile, we always have books to help us travel, too!
Posted by Chris Marie Green/Crystal Green at 7:24 AM