Alphabet Challenge Day 10

Today is day ten of my alphabet blogging challenge

The letter is J

The subject is JOURNEY

When you set out to write a novel, you start on an amazing journey. It’s a journey that will be rewarding, difficult, tiring, exciting, frustrating.  You will find it challenging – intellectually, psychologically, emotionally, socially, and in many ways, physically. It’s a journey that you will often consider abandoning – in fact a lot of people do give up and return ‘home’.

If you make it through to the end, it will feel the most fantastic achievement. Even if you know your novel is not the greatest, finishing it will still provide a sense of elation. And you will be changed by the experience. You can’t go through such an endeavour with all its highs and lows, ups and downs, without being changed. The end will be wonderful, a cause for celebration, but as is often the case, the destination is not as important as the journey itself.

And you are not the only one who will be changed. When you write a novel, you create characters, people you will live with for months, if not years. And you will also send each of your main characters off on a journey. ‘The task of the writer is to create characters on the verge of change, characters that will, in some way, be unrecognizable by the end of the work. Ripe characters.’ (The Plot Thickens – Noah Lukeman)

So, a character in a novel is on a journey. That might be a physical journey, an emotional journey, or the journey might be symbolic. It might be a combination of these. A prime example of the function and significance of the journey in the novel is ‘Jane Eyre’. Bronte’s novel is set in five different locations, and in each one, Jane has different experiences, which give her a new level of maturity, until she has journeyed from vulnerable to powerful.

The journey a writer gives a character might be no more than the realisation that:

  • their dislike of the colour green relates to being made to eat sprouts as a child
  • the noise in the attic is an echo of their own pacing footsteps in the bedroom below
  • they love the person they thought they hate

Or it might be a much more fundamental jolting of the psychological self; or a revelation that transcends everything the character has ever known; or something in their background that makes them hate/love themselves.

If you are writing a novel, you need to send your characters on journeys that will challenge you as well as them. You’re going to share this journey with them. It’s a long, hard slog, and it needs to be fun and enthralling – enjoy the journey!

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4 Comments

  1. polly says:

    Some great tips for writers as they contemplate their own journeys ~ thanks Lindsay 🙂

  2. Lindsay says:

    It’s all about the journey – as they say in the reality shows!

  3. Christine says:

    Another good and thought-provoking post. If the writing of a novel is a journey, then I keep getting turned away at the border-insufficient funds for the trip (for that, read depth) or no visa (not the right credentials). I know where I’m going wrong. I’m not doing enough groundwork so I run out of steam half way through. Sigh! Or I plough ahead not realising that my characters haven’t packed the right clothes for the climate and won’t board the plane until I’ve taken them back to duty-free for a shopping spree, which of course I refuse to do as I’m the travel rep and I know best.

  4. Lindsay says:

    Love your continuation of the journey idea, Christine! The novel journeys you describe resemble Samuel Johnson’s view of second marriages: “A second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”

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