There’s one little technique you’ll consistently see in the best travel writing. Often you gloss over it or take it for granted. But it’s always there, enhancing the story and bringing it to life. And, sadly, it’s one of the most underused techniques in contemporary travel writing. The technique? Quotes. When you use quotes, it provides a human dimension and layer that greatly enriches your travel stories. In fact, quotes have many other uses, too…
1. Quotes make killer openers for your travel stories. Here’s a simple—but very effective—quote I used to begin one of my articles in Renaissance Magazine. The story was about a re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury in England and I wanted to capture the spirit of the event . . . “A York! A York!” yells the banner bearer, as he works the excited crowd up into a lather. The Battle of Tewkesbury is about to begin. A crowd several thousand strong has assembled along one side of the expansive green field to witness 2,000 men-at-arms having at each other. It’s a splendid sight; hundreds of foot soldiers armed with long wooden pikes and gleaming swords.
2. Quotes can enhance and convey the excitement of the moment. Here’s a quote I used to convey my nervousness on a precarious jeep trip up the side of a steep mountain in New Zealand for Australia & New Zealand Magazine… We begin our 4-wheel ascent up the switchback trail on Mount Alfred’s rocky face. “You’ve gone quiet there, Roy,” says Charles, referring to the unnerving sheer drop, off the side of the trail beside me. “I’m fine,” I say as confidently as I can, “There’s at least six inches between the wheel and the drop off.” My wife thinks I’m joking.
3. Quotes help to keep things interesting. Using straight narrative descriptions is usually boring. But quotes get your message across while keeping it interesting. From a historical article I wrote about Glastonbury, England, here’s a quote from a woman who’s explaining the town’s metaphysical energy to me . . . She tells me about the town’s Earth Energy. “The earth energy” she says, “is palpable in Glastonbury—the town lies on two powerful Ley lines, known as the ‘Michael and Mary’ lines. Geomancers say these lines traverse through The Abbey and Tor and head off towards the Avebury Stone Circle.”
4. Quotes can add a touch of humor. Another important use of quotes is to inject some humor into, or lighten up, your travel stories. Here’s a quote from my article about a luxury barge cruise down France’s Burgundy Canal that was published in Global Living Magazine… I wave gaily at a pecheur (fisherman) on the side of the muddy 12-yard wide canal as I pass by, and yell “Bonjour monsieur” followed by a hearty “Vive La France!” He laughs and calls back, “Bonjour”, pleased that a tourist is enjoying the French countryside so much. As you’ve seen from these examples, quotes liven up your story. And a few lines of dialogue can be used very effectively to convey information about a tourist destination.
5. Quotes show rather than tell. Quotes can be used “show” people far better than straight narrative. Quotes seem to reveal people’s innermost feelings, often in a powerful way. Here’s a quote from my roundup story about Rotorua, New Zealand. In an article in Australia & New Zealand Magazine, I’m describing an enthusiastic young Maori woman who is a performer in a cultural show… “I was born in Hastings, and then reared on my mum’s ancestral lands within the Whakarewarewa village,” she tells me . . . Clearly very proud and enthusiastic about her Iwi (people), Ngahuia says, “I’ve been performing Maori cultural arts with my mother, sisters, cousins, aunties and uncles since I was 18 months old, and I’m fluent in the Maori Language. I have the best job in the world.” The beauty of quotes is that they can be used in almost every travel writing scenario. They can be used to add color to a flat story. Quotes paint a picture of people and their culture and make people more memorable. They enable you to impart information, seemingly with greater authority, because it comes from a real “live” person. So, always try to splash some dialogue into your story. Finally, you may wonder whether you should only include the exact quotes and dialogue that were used in your conversation. If you have them on a tape recorder or wrote them down, by all means use the quotes verbatim. But, if you haven’t written down the exact words, it’s acceptable to paraphrase the conversation. This also gives you the opportunity to make the quotes smoother and easier to read. Share on Facebook
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up today here and we’ll send you a report, Get Paid to Travel as a Travel Writer, completely FREE.]