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 Capturing the Moment 
by Elaine St. Anne

A setting sun paints a Monet watercolor on a tropic sky. A gothic cathedral rises with cold, gray menace. Who hasn’t wanted to capture such a moment forever? That’s why travelers snap multiple photos and buy numerous souvenirs. As writers, we not only want to capture the moment for ourselves; we want to be able to share it with others. I have had success placing travel articles and am often asked how best to depict a travel memory.

The secret is details. Good travel writing transports the reader to that far away exotic place, where a zephyr breeze caresses the cheek and a wizened man leads a donkey laden with baskets down a narrow street. The reader tastes the heat of a Mexican chili, inhales the sweet smell of oleander, feels the press of jungle vegetation.

The difficulty is deciding which details to include. There must be enough specificity to render an accurate picture of the destination, but not so much that the reader falls asleep. Your audience wants to experience the joy of the journey without being buried by an avalanche of insignificant facts. It’s entrancing to learn that Costa Rican women walk five steps behind their husbands but control all the money earned in the market. It is deadly to read a list of Costa Rican goods sold at the market. The description of a gourmet dinner at La Cirque will tantalize. An account of the five meals you ate at McDonald’s will stupefy

I find it best to include everything and then pare down to the essentials. I used to write copious journal entries at night in my hotel room and try to pull out the most telling moments later. It was like panning for gold. I had to sift through so much for so little. Now I carry a small notebook and jot down impressions as I go along. “That leaf looks like an elephant’s ear, that plant smells like rotting meat, the sheets on the bed in the Trump Tower star hotel feel like water flowing over my skin.”

I keep my language simple yet descriptive. It is all about the senses. A travel writer must engage all five senses and place the reader in the picture. Think about an opening shot in a movie. The camera moves in on the scene and the viewer takes it all in—the crowd on a city street, a fat man sweating by a bus stop, a slim girl tapping a nervous foot as she checks her watch.

Travel magazines and newspapers will pay for travel articles and need a constant stream of new material. Spend a little time concentrating on the little things and you will soon see your recent trip in print.

Charlotte Writers' Club
Charlotte Writers' Club

P.O. Box 220954
Charlotte, NC 28222
 
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