Two Game-Changing Travel Writing Tips from Michael Crichton

The following article is a guest post by Maria, travel blog junkie and writer!- Jon

If you’re anything like me, you’re a little confused right now – didn’t Michael Crichton write Jurassic Park and all those other popular science fiction books? Yes, but that’s not all he accomplished. Having recently read Crichton’s memoir-travelogue hybrid Travels, I’m under the impression that his nonfiction is just as good as, if not better than, his fiction. If you’re wondering how Crichton imagined so many different worlds, you’ll be enlightened to find out that he had the travel bug in a bad way. My experience with Travels shed light on my understanding of Crichton as a writer and as a person, but it also educated me about successful travel writing. Crichton didn’t come right out and list pointers in every chapter, but the palpable excellence of his writing spoke volumes. The following are two of the most successful characteristics of Travels and their applications for practical travel writing.

1. Memoir-Travelogue Duality

There are many subtle travel writing tips to take away from Travels, but this most obvious one might be the best. Crichton divided his book into two sections: “Medical Days” and “Travels,” each a window into a different period of Crichton’s life. The first section is more memoir than travel writing, but it gives some insight into Crichton’s thought processes and mental structure. Especially revealing is a potentially life-threatening situation that caused Crichton to “quit medicine” and devote himself to writing. This particular incident told me that, from this point onward, Crichton would be living and writing in the moment, making it all count, and getting to know himself before that was no longer an option. Without this valuable insight into Crichton as a person and as a writer, the “Travels” section wouldn’t have been as meaningful to me. While the travelogue can certainly stand on its own, it takes on new meaning and depth when paired with the memoir.

Application

What this tells me is that successful travel writing gives something of the writer’s past and individuality as well as a pithy account of travel experiences. The duality of understanding what a writer’s personal context is and its relationship to traveling and wanderlust is a recipe for travel writing success. Readers are interested in who you are and why you’re traveling, just as I was fascinated by Crichton’s account of his life as a medical student before he became a travel writer.

2. Making the Mysterious Accessible

Interestingly enough, Crichton was a believer in the paranormal, spiritual travel, and the astral plane. While this explains a great deal in terms of his science fiction talents, it’s also relevant to travel writing. Crichton didn’t limit himself to thinking of travel in the literal sense. He expanded its meaning, enabling me to see travel as an idea that’s individually defined for every person. I was able to define and appreciate travel for myself after seeing that it could mean more than jumping onto a plane or backpacking through some mountains. By giving me a taste of the paranormal, Crichton made the mysterious accessible and enabled me to think more creatively about my own ideas.

Application

As a reader, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I was learning more about myself as I read Travels. It was certainly risky for Crichton to state that paranormal activity is an everyday occurrence and that he could travel spiritually and mentally on the astral plane. Of course, it’s not necessary to tackle such a contentious topic in your travel writing, but you can give your readers a strong perspective on something that’s unfamiliar and reap the benefits. Successful travel writing brings the mysterious and unfamiliar straight into readers’ living rooms, forcing them to think about their own perspectives and giving them introspective insight. Crichton’s book did that for me, and I read it several times over. If you can write to inspire ideas, lend perspective, and build bridges to other worlds, your travel writing will be a success.

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education performing research surrounding online universities and their various program offerings. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Two Game-Changing Travel Writing Tips from Michael Crichton”
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  2. Chuck Manley says:

    As an aspiring travel blogger who hopes to adapt his writings into books, I found this article interesting and useful. While hitchhiking through the states a lot of people compared me to the likes of jack kerouac in on the road. I think you mentioned it best in your article that its important to know the person and not just their travels. Its how you understand their movements. I found that to be lacking in kerouacs writing, and would be interested in reading this book to get a whole image of the traveler and not just where they have been.

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