Whether leaving for vacation or a job in a new city, departures can be stressful, exciting, and full of conflict. Use this prompt to reimagine a departure today in your writing time.
I’ve been working on crafting more emotional scenes, and in reviewing some old journals, I stumbled upon an entry about the ways we’re always leaving. Days later, that phrase kept popping up in my mind. I started a list of departures and quickly found enough emotional material for more scenes than I have time to write.
Two Reasons to Write About Departures
I think there are two qualities about any departure that make them great for writing. See if you agree and try this prompt with me today!
1. Departures require action
As I made my list, I started with the big departures. My family moves often due to my husband’s job, and we have faced far more grief-filled departures than I care to count.
But we’ve also run away on fun trips, left boring parties, and been evacuated in the dead of night when a wildfire careened too close to our house. Each experience required action, a must for compelling fiction.
Consider the ways a departure requires a character to act. Vacationers have to pack, plan, and board the train or plane. A spouse leaving a relationship makes a series of choices followed by action. A thief escaping a scene of his crime requires different action.
If characters are stuck, make them leave their status quo life and see what happens.
2. Departures hold emotion
Departures are also rife with emotion. I just finished reading Lori Gottlieb’s book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, and in it, one of her patients plans the most remarkable funeral for herself. It reminded me of the inherent tension in departures– how they can hold both hope and grief at the same time.
In writing, it is easy to assign one emotion to a scene, when there’s often far more happening below the surface.
Even the happiest of departures can be full of emotion. I’ve been sitting in an airport preparing to board for what should be a relaxing vacation while tied up in knots on the inside due to guilt or something that feels unfinished at home. Departures are an opportunity to embrace and convey a range of emotions.
See if you can assign more than one emotion to each departure on your list.
Where Will Your Characters Depart?
What departures have you experienced recently? What departures stick out in your memory as major events in your life? What departures might occur in your stories? Take some time to make a list.
Now that you have a list, any one of them could be built into a scene that helps you practice action and emotion. Give it a try!
Why do you think departures are such powerful vehicles for story? What are your favorite departure scenes in books, tv, or film? Let us know in the comments.
Choose a departure from your list and write a scene about it. Consider what emotion might be expected in that scene. Then, complicate it with another emotion or two.
Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveller with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.