Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

20 August, 2012

A Long Way

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I wonder if Europe is just poorly suited for road narratives.

I have this idea for a story, see, that I have been kicking around in my head for a while. It would be a very episodic type of story, structured around a set of protagonists who move from place to place and have different adventures in different places. It’s the same basic sort of set-up as Doctor Who, or Quantum Leap, or Touched by an Angel, or early seasons of Supernatural. I doubt I’ll ever break into TV, but there are other ways of telling an episodic story. The thing is, though, I have a hard time picturing it set in Europe.

There’s a saw that goes along the lines of: “Europeans think a hundred miles is a long way. Americans think a hundred years is a long time.” The European bit definitely rings true to me; I sure as hell think a hundred miles is an inconvenient distance. America, as a continent, is just so big, with lots of open spaces with scattered settlements spaced far apart. It lends itself to a narrative with travelling baked in. Europe, by contrast, is all scrunched up and packed tightly. The Romans founded heaps and heaps of cities within a day’s travel of each other. And where fjords and mountains once isolated small villages that are actually pretty close as the crow flies, modernity have brought these right next to each other as well. The story idea I have wouldn’t work here. Are there any road narratives that do? Surely there must be, I just can’t think of any.Doctor Whois British, and had to go into space and time to get anywhere. You don’t go exploring the open road in Europe, you backpack through it, from convenient point to convenient point.

The thing is, I don’t really trust myself to write Americans. I’m not an American; I’d mess up the idiom. I never went to a High School, never grew up with the US Saturday morning cartoons, never ever recited any pledge of allegiance. I haven’t even lived in America, all my info about life there comes from the media. I do not think I would do it right, were I to attempt to write Americans in a sustained, episodic format. It would ring false.

There isn’t really a solution to this, I guess, beyond practising. Maybe hope that a media caricature of real America is close enough. Maybe retool the idea from the bottom up to make it work in a setting I do know. Look for some good examples of this kind of story set in Europe, for inspiration. And, as the advice always goes, write, write, write.


  1. Hm. Maybe if you change it from road to ocean, and set it on one of those leisurely slow-moving cruises that only occasionally dock?

    Comment by Loki Aesir — 20 August, 2012 @ 12:22

  2. Why don’t you just create a fictional setting for your characters to travel through?

    You’re even really good at doing that. I’m sure you could cook up a world kind of like Earth and on the same technological level.

    Comment by David — 24 August, 2012 @ 17:41

  3. I suppose I could do that, but I’m a bit reluctant. I kind of want this story to be grounded in the real world, a love-letter of sorts to this particular type of story, if you understand?

    Comment by Obdormio — 26 August, 2012 @ 14:20

  4. Yeah, I understand perfectly, if you make it a fictional setting it automatically becomes a sci-fi or a fantasy first and a road trip narrative second.

    I think I feel like I don’t know any place well enough to write about real-life locations, so I’ll probably have to invent a setting every time I write something.

    Comment by David — 26 August, 2012 @ 16:38

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