In thinking about plot, story arc, and the structure of a good travel story for one of the classes I’m teaching, I poked around on the internet to see what others were saying about it, and to my astonishment I found this column by Chip Scanlan on PoynterOnline, a site for working journalists. I say “astonishment” because I had no idea that there was even a question about the concept of “narrative.” To me it’s always been obvious: narrative is storytelling.
But in the newspaper business, where roots are so firmly embedded in reporting, people are uncertain, or confused, by the concept. Hence, Scanlan asked his colleagues to answer the question posed by the reporter, “What is narrative, anyway?” The responses are enlightening, and tell their own story.
Larry Habegger, executive editor of Travelers’ Tales, has been writing about travel since 1980. He has visited almost fifty countries and six of the seven continents, traveling from the frozen Arctic to equatorial rain forest, the high Himalayas to the Dead Sea. In the early 1980s he co-authored mystery serials for the San Francisco Examiner with James O’Reilly, and since 1985 their syndicated newspaper column, “World Travel Watch,” has appeared in newspapers in five countries, and can also be found on WorldTravelWatch.com and on TravelersTales.com. As series editors of Travelers’ Tales, they have worked on some eighty titles, winning many awards for excellence. Habegger regularly teaches the craft of travel writing at workshops and writers conferences, and he lives with his family in San Francisco. Click here to learn more about Larry Habegger.