Saturday, June 18, 2011

HOW TO WRITE A "SENSE OF PLACE" WITHOUT CLICHES

A week ago at the Travel Blog Exchange convention (TBEX 11) in Vancouver, delegates learned from a panel of the top travel writers about how to avoid amateurish writing. They can smell a newbie's article from 100 yards!

Tour guide in Seattle
These writers and editors all have their pet peeves, but I found their advice on achieving a sense of place about a destination to be the most valuable they gave all weekend.
  • Research the destination before you set out -- find out everything you can about its history, culture, people, famous sons and daughters, etc., etc.
  • Use your contacts to discover what they experienced when they visited the same place.
  • Interview locals on arrival. Quote them.
  • Slow down so you can watch and listen. If you rush the visit, you'll miss the atmosphere and flavour of the place.
  • Take note of and use the small details you see, smell, and hear.
  • Avoid following the guidebook.
  • Consider your choice of adjectives very carefully.
  • Avoid alliteration, common metaphors, and too many foreign phrases.
The final keeper: Above all tell the truth about what you found in the destination. If you write an enthusiastic piece full of "charming" "quaint" or "rustic" adjectives, you will come across as naive, rather than a seasoned traveller.

Photo: (c) Julie H. Ferguson 2011
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