Writing the Road Trip A short essay by Tania
One of the joys of living in the Jossverse is its vastness. The mythology circles the globe, and the characters are constantly aware of the fact that their every action has far reaching consequences. They have never saved Sunnydale or Los Angeles, they save the world they live in. The true beauty of this far-thinking is that it opens the door for fanfiction set anywhere in the world, and since many of the characters are immortal, this can include any time in the world. These possibilities can be both exciting and daunting to the writer, so here I present a few steps to make your writing of Travel Fic go a little smoother.
1. Start by knowing your characters. If you are writing a character like Spike or Angel that have traveled the world several times over they are probably going to have few problems adapting to local customs no matter where they are. On the other hand, if you are taking characters like Gunn or Xander who have never been out of California for more than a day or two you can expect some blunders, run with that. Whether you are writing comedy, action, or angst their ignorance of traveling could be fun. Those like Fred, Lorne, or Cordelia that have been to other dimensions for extended periods may have entirely different views on long distance traveling, while Giles and Wesley may crave a long trip home, etc. There are so many characters on BtVS & Angel that the writer can take on a journey it's a nearly endless supply of ideas.
2. Know your destination. Before you begin writing try map-questing your travel route. Find out how many days you have to work with. How many miles you have to travel. How they will pay for gas if they are driving, bus, train, or plane fair. Decide if they will be staying in a hotel or sleeping in the car or van, etc. These details don't need to distract from the story, which is the most important thing, but they can add the little things that keep readers interested. If you seem to know about what you're writing about it will shine through in your story.
3. Keep it realistic. If you have your human characters driving for sixteen hours without a potty break and fighting evil the second they turn the car off your readers will be rolling their eyes. Having realistic expectations for your travelers is a payoff of its own. If they only brought one change of clothes by day three they'll be smelling and your readers will know it. Little details can work for you or against you, if you plan them it's for you, if they slip by you don't expect the reader to let them slip too.
4. Decide in the beginning if you are following Canon. If your plot bunny came from an episode decide if you are sticking to the canon that surrounds the trip or jumping off into an Alternate Universe. There are many short references to trips and such on the show. If you decide to stray from canon just make sure you give us a reason, make it believable. One of the fastest ways to alienate the reader is to just add a note saying "Buffy has never heard of vampires and Angel somehow lived forever, they met in Ohio." If your reader sticks around after an intro like that you are very lucky. Remember, it's the getting there that makes it worth it. Don't gloss over the details.
5. Remember why we write fanfic. The point behind fanfiction is to fill in the details Joss didn't have time to give us. He only had seven years to explain what happened to Dru in Prague, just what Xander's dance in Oxnard looked like, why Angelus was in Prussia when he met the Beast, how Spike made it to Woodstock, how Hank Summers ended up in Spain with his secretary, etc. The fanfiction writer has an eternity to answer these questions and a million more that were left to conjecture. A two page story that solves one of these questions will often beat out a 200 page original series when it comes to pure satisfaction for both reader and writer. We love to see the moments that stick out in other viewer's minds and make us ask "What did happen there? I must know." If you have one of these moments write it and share it.
I hope this short little essay planted a few plot bunnies in your mind. My biggest piece of advice is take advantage of the multitude of resources on the web, check out travel sites, map sites, world's biggest sites, etc. I have always loved Buffy's line in The Freshman where she asks Xander "Is America pretty? I hear it's pretty." This is so true, and we have the power to show that to everyone, just as writers from the UK, Asia, Australia, etc. have the power to bring these characters to their shores and show us that even fictional people just need a road trip now and then.
Copyright Tania 2003-2004
Violators will be forced to ride in the trunk.