Take Us Somewhere

I recently read Jules Verne’s 1871 classic novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea—and found myself as enthralled as when I read the comic book version as a scrawny kid.

Three men lost at sea are taken aboard the Nautilus, a secret submarine that traverses the world’s oceans because Captain Nemo never wishes to live on land again. Here the narrator, Professor Aronnax, walks on the seafloor for the first time:

Lighting up the seafloor even thirty feet under the surface of the ocean, the sun amazed me with its power. The solar rays easily crossed that aqueous mass and dispersed its dark colors. I could clearly make out objects 300 feet away. Farther on, the bottom was tinted with fine shades of ultramarine; then, off in the distance, it turned blue and faded in the midst of a hazy darkness. 

He’ll eventually see a boundless variety of flora and fauna, priceless pearls, shipwrecks, the remains of Atlantis, and the legendary giant squid.

When you write a story, take us somewhere—one of the chief things that keep us fascinated by a tale.

It doesn’t have to be somewhere as exotic as under the ocean. It’s fine if it’s a creaky house or a stretch of road with a strip mall. It doesn’t even need to be a physical location. You can take us inside a relationship or emotional state.

In the TV series The Flight Attendant, Cassie (a flight attendant) wakes up after a one-night stand to find her lover murdered in their very bed. The story doesn’t involve that much travel, but rather is an odyssey through her mind.

Cassie is an alcoholic running from her troubled past, screwing up her life every chance she gets, and now she has the added paranoia of being a suspect in the murder, which she’s pretty sure she didn’t commit (despite her blackouts). It’ a psychological thriller that takes us deep inside the emotions of this frantic soul.

Another great way to take us somewhere is with a “fish out of water” story, where someone is thrust into an environment that is totally alien to them. There’s so much comedy/drama in that situation, it’s usually quite entertaining.

Take, for example, the TV series Schitt’s Creek. When the socialite Rose family (mom, dad, brother sister—the latter two grown-up but not really) lose their fortune, they’re forced to trade their glamorous lives for life in a worn-down motel in the middle of nowhere. The brother is shocked to attend a party with room-temperature vodka.

Hey, if you want to take us somewhere (with a chance to win a free Gotham class), enter our Travel Caption Contest.

See ya around.

Alex Steele
President, Gotham Writers Workshop

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