A trip isn’t a story by itself. It’s a collection of events. You will find some of these events interesting (you made it to Kilimanjaro!). Some will be interesting, while others won’t (you returned to the airport in time). However, the story that you tell about an event will determine what makes it interesting. Arriving on-time at the airport can be interesting, but only if you are telling a story about how things went wrong while you were there.
As a writer, your first task is to choose the story you want to tell and to organize the events that make up the story. Then, it’s time to ensure the events are useful or interesting to the reader. Look at the bold lines of introductory copy (known in the trade as “standfirsts”) in articles published in newspapers, magazines, and websites to see what kind of stories get published. Write the standfirst for yourself and use it as your brief.
Be sure to give your article a purpose.
You might have a specific objective for a trip (such as crossing Costa Rica or climbing Kilimanjaro), which gives your article purpose and direction. Your goal is to make the reader stick with you. Many trips have no clear goal. These trips are about exploring a place, learning its history and meeting its people. This is where it’s important to set a goal that will give the reader an idea of where you are taking them.
You can edit your experience to make it more personal.
Stories are made up of characters, dialogues, pace, plot, suspense and drama. All of these things must be shaped and organised to keep the reader’s interest. Once you have a storyline, collect the experiences that best fit it. Then dump the rest. The majority of travel articles will run between 1,000 and 2,000 words. This is only 10-20 paragraphs so there’s no time for detours.
Make your first paragraph irresistible
As long as the article grabs attention, you can begin a travel article in any way that suits your needs. Drama, humor, dialogue (or any combination of these) can all be used to start a travel article. However, the first sentence must grab readers’ attention like glue. Many travel articles begin in media – right in the middle of the story – and then go backtrack to explain why you are in this position. If you don’t know how to get in, give this a shot. You can imagine yourself as the reader. What would grab you to continue reading? Our travel writing prompts will help you get there.
Dialog brings life to a scene, gives personality and lets you convey important information in a humorous way. Take notes when you travel to take note of the words and phrases spoken by others. This will help you to refer back to them accurately when you are writing your article.
The difference between’ show and ‘tell’ is worth valuing
When you slow down and describe a scene in detail, you are showing the reader what you see, hear, feel. Telling is just moving the story forward: “We returned home to the tents for some well-earned rest.” Articles often switch between the drama of “showing” and the practical economy (or “telling”) – both are necessary, so make sure you include a good mix.
You should aim to entertain, not impress the reader
Many novice writers try to stuff their writing with complex phrases and recherch nomenclature (or something similar). It’s unnecessary, since the purpose of an article is not to exaggerate your literary skills, but entertain and inform. Hemingway’s maxim, “My aim is not to put down on paper my feelings and sees in the best and most simple way” is a good guideline for writers. However, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be experimental and playful.
Use vivid language when describing your surroundings
Many travel articles use meaningless phrases and words: beautiful, amazing, pretty, diverse, ‘land with contrasts’, “melting pot” or “bustling”. These phrases are sure to apply to your destination but could also be used to thousands of other destinations around the world. It is best to use language that is relevant to the topic you are describing. This allows the reader to see the picture and helps them to visualize it. Try to change the words that you use.
Place signs throughout the article
You should look out for signposts if you are wandering in a foreign country without a map. As readers travel along your story, so do you. In a few paragraphs, remind readers where you are going next. You could write, “The next day we traveled from Tokyo to Hirosaki.” Or, you could say, “It was tempting for me to linger at Tokyo’s restaurants but my search to find Japan’s finest sake would take me next deep into the country.” The reader thinks “Aha” and says: I see where this is going. I know why. I’ll continue to tag along.
Take your time and finish the task.
Travel articles can sometimes be too long, trying to cover every interesting detail. You have one paragraph left to write your conclusion.