Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

how to write about distance from home (1 Viewer)

Status
Not open for further replies.

alpacinoutd

Senior Member
Hello.

I'm thinking about a story in which a character leaves her country and goes to another country thousands of miles away.

So here's a sentence I have write now:

Before sleep, when she was adrift between sleep and wakefulness, she would see images of her apartment back home, having dinner with her family. A question kept nagging at the back of her mind: what am I doing here in this cold place thousands of miles away from my home, my family?

So, it's too simple. Do you have any suggestions to make it more dramatic? I mean instead of saying "thousands of miles away" maybe something else that conveys that sense of distance from home.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Hello.

I'm thinking about a story in which a character leaves her country and goes to another country thousands of miles away.

So here's a sentence I have write now:

Before sleep, when she was adrift between sleep and wakefulness, she would see images of her apartment back home, having dinner with her family. A question kept nagging at the back of her mind: what am I doing here in this cold place thousands of miles away from my home, my family?

So, it's too simple. Do you have any suggestions to make it more dramatic? I mean instead of saying "thousands of miles away" maybe something else that conveys that sense of distance from home.

I don't necessarily think it's 'too simple' but the way it is written doesn't work.

First issue is repetition.

Before sleep, when she was adrift between sleep and wakefulness,
she would see images of her apartment
back home,
having dinner with
her family.
A question kept nagging at the back of her mind:
what am I doing here in this cold place thousands of miles away from
my home,
my family?

The double use of 'home and family' in similar parts of their respective sentences creates a feel of both sentences more or less saying the exact same thing -- which they are, just the second one you frame as a question. What is the second sentence bringing? I don't really get anything from it that isn't made clear in the first. You need to make sure you are saying something NEW with each sentence, not just repeating the same point.

Secondarily, I would try to put yourself in the character's shoes a bit more. Does 'What am I doing here in this cold place thousands of miles away from my home, my family?' sound like a question that people would actually ask themselves over and over again? I don't think so. I assume she knows why she left home, the real question is not 'what am I doing here?' but rather 'was this a good decision?' That is also, importantly, bringing something new to the writing. Something like...

Before sleep, when she was adrift between sleep and wakefulness, she would see images of her apartment back home, having dinner with her family. A question kept nagging at the back of her mind: Was Jim worth it?
There probably isn't a character called 'Jim' in your story and it may be her reason wasn't anything to do with a love interest. The point is, the 'nagging question' is at least honing in on a real question, not something vague and generic like 'what am I doing here?' I think you need to order this around specifics to make the writing feel more powerful.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
I'd just like to mention something I've noticed about published work. Simple writing gets published. As LuckyScars points out, the thing to concentrate on is strong writing vs. weak writing.
 

Backstroke_Italics

Senior Member
As a general rule, if you want your character to mull over some gigantic issue in a way that the reader will connect to, it helps to make it more specific. Take these two examples.

"Becky asked herself, will I ever see Boston again?"

"Becky asked herself, will I ever eat at Boloco on Mischief Night again?" Assuming you've made your reader aware of what Boloco and Mischief Night are, this will hit harder than something more general.

So what is your MC leaving behind, specifically? Don't say family. What does that mean? Her brother Fred bringing another bass player with shaved eyebrows to Thanksgiving? Uncle Pete burning the roast and calling the Chinese takeaway again? Give us detail!
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Yeah, totally agree. "I miss home -- what am I doing here?" is cliché 90's Disney shit at this point.

What IS home? What IS family? It's not some nebulous thing, it's certain sounds/smells/experiences. Create those.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Before sleep, when she was adrift between sleep and wakefulness, she would see images of her apartment back home, having dinner with her family. A question kept nagging at the back of her mind: what am I doing here in this cold place thousands of miles away from my home, my family?
How close is your POV? I would move it in to make her emotions visceral to the reader.

She sighed; funny how ignored common place things become significant once they're gone: her cozy apartment, the laughter over dinner with her family. She was isolated and alone, far away from everything she loved, surrounded by strangers in a frozen city.

Meh - that's kinda rough, but maybe it makes my point.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
What is it about home she misses? What is it about the place she finds herself in that makes her long for home? Personal I would have specific things in the place she finds herself that triggers thoughts of home. Just arbitrarily missing home is something a lot of people do but for the 'reader' a trigger point is more apt.
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
When she was adrift between dreaming and wakefulness, she would see images of her apartment back home, that last dinner with her family. Her father's grim face. The hurt in her brother's eyes. The false smile her mother hid her emotions behind. Promises to send postcards of snow capped mountains from a far away country. Sleep, when it came, was fitful.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I like MistWolf's approach. Just writing about a girl who is homesick is too mundane and boring.

Here's my go at it:

Her heavy eyelids popped open when out of the corner of her eye she saw something scurry across the cold concrete floor. Damn cockroaches...we never had those in my apartment back home. But the weight of sleep was now overtaking her consciousness, as she drifted in and out of dreams. Her father appeared. He was looking over her mom in a hospital bed. Again her eyes opened up with a jerk. Thank god it was only a dream! She erased the vision with a memory of the last family dinner. Tomorrow she would send the postcard she had promised. God knows she had tried enough times to get through on the primitive landline in the lobby. But now she needed sleep. The day ahead would be challenging enough. She had not expected to work with so many children in the factory. Just before she succumbed to sleep, she wondered about her decision to move to a third-world country so she could pursue her dream as a designer.

 
Last edited:

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
This reminds me of an essay I wrote in Freshman English, first quarter, in 1975. The prof asked the class to write an essay about their first quarter in college.

I'd gone from Orange Park, Florida (adjacent to Jacksonville) to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, a seven hour drive. I wouldn't get home again until Thanksgiving, and that was a near thing. I'd gotten a paycheck at work, leaving at 9PM, and had to convince a service station south of Macon on I-75 to cash it (about $119) so I'd have money to keep the tank filled all the way home. But that was a few weeks later.

I wrote an essay about being homesick and turned it in. The next class, the prof (who sported a goatee much like one I'd feature decades later) asked to speak to me after class. He'd read the essay and was worried about me. Evidently what I'd written was an effective emotional declaration. I tried to do that, and I succeeded beyond my goal. :) I assured the prof I wasn't on the verge of suicide, that I was simply trying to sell my topic. Yes, I was homesick, but I poured it on in the essay. He smiled, patted me on the shoulder, and assured me that if I ever needed someone to talk to, come see him.

It would be interesting to revisit that essay, but once I handed it over I never saw it again.

I only had the guy for three months--less because I generally only made his (MWF) class on Friday when we turned in an assignment and got the next one--but I always remember him warmly when I think of that brief conversation. The man noticed, cared, and reached out. I've never stopped thinking fondly of him.
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
As others have suggested, making the emotions or feelings within the character intense and immediate might best be achieved thru a strong concrete image drawing on life experience the poet expects he/she shares with the reader. As an example, one of the most striking images in English poetry just happens to deal with DISTANCE. The 17th-C poet must leave his wife for an indefinite period and travel to the continent. To ease her loneliness and keep her sexually anxious for his return, he creates this amazing concrete image the workings of which are as relevant to character development and plot advancement in fiction as they are to the unfolding of metaphor in poetry.

The concerns of poetry are emotion, feeling, intuition, imagination as pathways to insight and 'felt understanding' often of the unknown. ALL of these are abstractions. Abstractions cannot be experienced directly, cannot be experienced with the senses, because abstractions are intellectual summations of experience. So, I would think of interest to writers of fiction, poetry turns to the world of the known, the concrete, to create images of new congruity that give teeth to the abstract and can move readers to epiphanies of insight closed to rationality. With different ends in mind, the writer of fiction can use the concrete as a platform on or from which to launch into nuances necessary for Story.

Donne's poem (copied below) which you will be delighted to hear I am NOT going to 'analyze,' stands as a superb example of concrete methodology. As an example, I hope you'll find it of interest for your own work. Just as importantly . . . . . .I hope you enjoy it. .


A VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls, to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
'The breath goes now,' and some say, 'No:'


So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears;
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refin'd,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end, where I begun.






 
Last edited:

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Vranger -- your experience touched a (good) nerve. My father died when I was 2/3-way through the formal final exam period in my 3rd-year at UBC (largest university in Western Canada). I was destroyed. Dad and I were close. I didn't even remember the two exams I had left, never mind go to the rooms and write them. The Head of the English Dept., who knew me--I'd taken a couple of his courses--phoned me at home with condolences. He told me that they would calculate final marks in the two courses from my marks to date. But what about my paper for Dr. de Bruyn? OMG, I'd completely forgotten about it. I was at p. 40, first draft. De Bruyn was away sick. The Head said, "I'm sending someone around to pick up your draft. I'll read it. Then do you have 15 minutes to tell me over the phone where you would have gone with it, were you able to finish?" Yes, those people were out there many years ago, Vranger. I sure hope they're out there in our schools and universities now.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top