flat lay photography of camera, book, and bag

Writing unnecessary words where a character or characters travel from A to B in your fiction can be unengaging and cause the reader to lose interest. But at the same time, it is one of the fundamental functions of not just human life, but of the Universe.

You travel to get anywhere and this isn’t just to go on holiday.
You leave your house to go to the supermarket and come back.
You go to and from your holiday destination.
You go to and from your work.
You go to and from the gym.
Whilst staying in your house, you go to and from the kitchen.

Of course, there may be a deviation or additional locations. E.g. Go from A to B, and then to C and then back to A. But it still requires traveling from one destination to another. I am sure you get the idea and this is a simple and straight forward fact of life. The fact that you need to travel. It is also one of the most important factors in your life. Being able to travel means a great deal for living a normal life. But the interesting thing is that it can also be the least interesting part of your life. Although, as it’s part of parcel of everyday existence it’s unavoidable even if you work from home and don’t ever leave the house.

But, as a writer should you include this in your writing?

There is no right or wrong answer to this and it depends on what you are writing and the emotion you are trying to capture, or details you wish to describe. The main point is only include if it is needed in the story. After all, think of Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the fact that Frodo and Sam spend most the story getting from the Shire to Mount Doom. If they didn’t do this it would be a very short story! However, writing about getting from A to B in your story is often not required and if not careful can be one of the most boring parts of your story.

Writing ‘walking down the road’ or ‘traveling to a destination’ when the journey has no real importance in the story can slow it down and have a detrimental effect on the reader’s interest. So in many cases, the best approach is simply not to include it.


For example:

If there is a character in a fantasy novel, let’s say a king who is waiting for the return of his Grand Mage, and he waits in one of the towers of his castle.
brown and black castleThe Grand Mage approaches the castle but has to walk through the entire building to get to the King. The key point and interesting element of this scene is when they meet, not when he walks up through the door of the tower and up the stairs.
So give a description of how the King is anxious and waiting for the return of the Mage and then at the doorway the Mage appears. This removes the A to B travel and also allows for evocation and engaging with the audience. Although, if you want to create tension or perhaps create a ghostly scene you may want to include a description of the building and elements within or outside of it. But this is done to evoke emotions, interests and not to describe travel.
So, it could be written in two different ways:
Brian, the mage, walked up to the castles secret entrance. Down a corridor and then to the steps of the tower.
The sight of the castle brought a cascade of relief to the Mage’s heart and added a spring to his step. With his spirits lifted he quickly entered through the secret passage, disturbing no one and proceeding unnoticed down the dark and damp corridor.
The second paragraph is far more descriptive to the reader and in part is just added detail. But to note, there is no right and wrong way to present this, and you could just use the ‘tell’ approach.

But having looked at the second paragraph again, it might come across as a bit flowery. Remember to always keep to the point and tone of the scene:

The Mage’s spirit lifted at the sight of the castle. Skirting the boundary and avoiding the guards he enters through a secret passage. In the darkness, he felt his way along the cold, damp wall.

Another example:

John walks down the street.

Nothing wrong with this sentence, but it is not engaging with the reader and could just be left out. Or if you want to build some evocation, try writing:

Every step feels like walking through mud, as an impending feeling of doom saturates John’s mind and the realisation that soon he will be at his grandmother’s house.

The second sentence is far more revealing and engaging. It describes emotions and pulls in the reader. Another way to look at it is like painting a scene. And the more descriptive detail the better the painting. This is in many ways is the same as ‘show, don’t tell.’ But in this specific post, it relates to the point of traveling and how to use it. It is after all one of the key factors of human existence.

As ever if you have any comments or questions on this post please do contribute your thoughts.