Transportation as a story pace control

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Over at Kristen Lamb’s website, a column by Cait Reynolds examines some aspects of distance to be travelled as a control of story pace. She mentions means of transit as well as physical distance. People go places in most stories, and if yours includes a trip longer than a jaunt to the bathroom, there’s a time element attached to transit. You can use it for story choices that lead to characterization, too.

For example, in my upcoming historical fiction novel, there’s a trip from Raisinville to Grand Rapids and back in the same day. Distances being what they are between a mythical place (Raisinville) and the well-known Grand Rapids, I had to calculate the average speed of passenger railroads in Michigan of 1899. How fast could a locomotive like the late 19th Century one above travel? How early in the day did their train have to leave to let them make it a day trip? Did Anna have to hurry Frank’s breakfast so she could make that trip with Joe?

Public transportation gives a wild card to plot and character introduction. Driving in a private vehicle, be it car or a carriage, limits the characters to those we know. Putting characters into a conveyance where anyone could show up adds opportunity.

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