My characters have to travel over a mountain range to get to another city. This is in a low tech setting, so the trip isn’t easy. I’ve added some interesting scenery to create a little novelty, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I’m worried if I skip over most of the journey, the travel sequence will feel rushed, but I’m having trouble filling all that space.

I’ve read your article on travel stories, but I’m still not sure how to make these uneventful travel scenes entertaining for readers. Can you help?

– Anonymous

Hi Anonymous,

Uneventful scenes aren’t the answer. Either it’s an important part of an arc, in which case it’s an eventful scene, or it should be summarized, or you should skip past it. (I’ve got an article that goes into detail on this.) The big question here is how much content you actually need to have in this travel sequence, so you can judge how many arcs to put in and how big they should be.

Is this travel sequence an important obstacle in the story, or is it just a logistical necessity to keep the plot moving?

  • If you presented traveling across the mountain range as something perilous that the characters will have to overcome to succeed at their goals or solve bigger problems, then the travel sequence is an important arc in your story. There’s uncertainty over whether they’ll make it across okay, and readers need to see that come to a turning point and resolve. It’s also pretty high stakes, since they might die. Choose a particularly dangerous point near the end of the journey to be your climax.
  • If you left a problem with lower stakes unresolved, the travel sequence might call for a smaller arc. Maybe your main character has barely been out of the city before, and has to get used to being out in the wilderness and the hardships of traveling. Narrate a smaller sequence where your main character has trouble with their new situation, but then adjusts. Then just summarize the rest of the traveling, and when they arrive at the new location, show how they’re even more used to traveling than when you last left off with them. Maybe they’re even sad to go back to civilization.
  • If the plot simply continues in the city over the mountains because they have to go talk to the queen over there or something, and crossing the mountain range will take a while but it isn’t particularly dangerous or notable, then you don’t have to put in any arcs: you just need to get the travel over with. Consider skipping forward in time to when the main character arrives at their destination, and then summarize what the journey was like as they settle in.

If you can’t find any problems that should be resolved as they travel, consider just taking it out and handing it to readers, or reading it yourself after a break. Maybe you’ve created some expectation during your story that important conflicts will happen during travel, or maybe you’re just not used to the idea that you can skip ahead.

Best wishes,

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