But sometimes the act of traveling is part of the story. The Fellowship of the Ring would have been much shorter if the story only focused on the Shire and Mordor and skipped all the traveling between the two locations. Many other "quest" stories also include an interesting travelogue along with dodging assassins and training on the road. Others, unfortunately, seem to think that the travelogue is the point of the story and proceed to have giant infodumps intermixed with occasional mentions of the characters. In my own books, The Crystal Throne and Talking to Trees, the characters must travel a great deal in order to find help.
Even the best plans for travel may be disrupted. Peter in Talking to Trees mapped out where he needed to go, only to find the Watcher had other plans.
Peter stumbled forward and tripped over the uneven floor. Floor? Recovering his balance, he turned, intending to complain. But there was no Watcher behind him. Only the remains of a stone wall with a tall panel of silver-gray wood. "Oh, great. Now what?"
He turned slowly, studying his surroundings. There was the ruined wall behind him and tumbled stone blocks that could be the remains of a matching wall off to his right. The ground fell away to his left, and he walked over to look out over the edge. "You have got to be kidding me!"
The hillside sloped down to the edge of a big lake. Was it a lake or a sea? He tried to spy the other side, but water stretched as far as he could see, muddy and still. He looked at the water's edge, wondering how deep it was.
Walking around the ruins took only seconds. There was just the one partial wall, part of a floor, and a jumble of stones. The small hillside the ruins stood on was the only patch of dry land he could see. The hill was completely surrounded by water.
Peter sighed. The Watcher really had it in for him. What did it expect him to do here? What could he do here? "Where is here, anyway?" he muttered. He didn't remember any large seas on his map.
He unslung his backpack and pulled out his homemade map of the Lands. Spreading it out on the floor, he looked from the map to his surroundings.
He was right. There was no large lake or sea on it. But all he had learned about the Lands had come from elves or Windkin. Perhaps this was in an area where neither had explored? Or outside the Free Lands entirely?
Peter shook his head at that thought. He had to be somewhere in the Lands. Somehow he was sure of that. But where? He couldn't even be sure he was in the same time period as Jody and Jeanne. "I thought it would be so easy," he complained. "Just head east of Windgard and--"
He paused and looked again at the map. He looked out at the water. "You dumped me in the middle of the Great Flood?" he shouted at the wall.
A straightforward tale of woe as it stands and a major example of "how not to handle" a situation. The supervisors vanished, leaving the poor gate attendants (two volunteered to stay past their shifts to help us) to give what updates they could. But the gate attendants didn't have the authority to even issue meal vouchers until after all the airport food places had closed down for the night.
However, as I'm a writer, this will show up in a story sometime. Maybe the plane was sabotaged deliberately as part of a mystery. Maybe the reason was one of the many irritated passengers. Maybe the Bad Corporation in charge of the spaceport was trying to strand the expert investigating a problem at the end location. Or maybe I need to write another spaceport-based story (this isn't the first time I've been stranded or had 'interesting' flight problems).
Perhaps that's why some of my most frustrating nightmares are about me not being able to get somewhere. Such as dreaming I need to take a test but things keep popping up to stop me from even getting across the parking lot to the building the classroom is in. Or I get to the building or can't find the classroom.
Oops, one of my fellow passengers from last night's cancelled flight just noticed they've changed the gate for today's flight. And so it begins...
Have you subjected your characters to interesting travel misadventures? What are your favorite travel or travel/quest stories?