Monday, August 24, 2015

Writing About: A Plane Ride

Sometimes our characters need to go somewhere farther than work and the grocery store. Sometimes they need to go out of state. You could skip the plane ride, but I’m one of those writers who believe in writing everything to make the story realistic. You don’t have to, though. You can start a chapter with your character(s) in the airport after their flight, or you can write out everything but skip the flight. It’s up to you, so take a look at my 4 steps below and pick which phases you want to write about.

1. Airport

People: If you’ve ever been in an airport, you know how chaotic it can be. People traveling for business hurry past with their suitcase in one hand and a briefcase in the other. Families traveling for a vacation crowd together, loud and loaded down with luggage. Tourists, whom we get a lot of in the Orlando International Airport, clutter in packs and often speak a foreign language. Then there are the watchful security guards and pilots walking by in their crisp uniforms.

Size: Airports are normally huge and you often have to go from one section/floor to another to get to your gate. I once got lost trying to find my luggage! So make sure to mention the size and even let your frazzled character get lost, too.

Waiting: And then there’s the waiting, which is what everyone does in the airport. Show your characters impatience and what he/she does to consume the time.

2. Take Off

The take off is actually the most exciting part of a plane ride (unless, of course, it crashes). The plane moves onto the runway with a gentle gliding motion. When it picks up speed, the plane will bump and rattle you around, and when it lifts up, you’ll get pushed back into your seat. After a few minutes, the plane levels out. You can describe the shrinking roads, cars, and houses as the plane rises, and the look of the clouds from the window.

Image from Pixabay
TIP #1: If you want to write about a plane crash, read reports, books, and watch as many movies/documentaries as you can to understand what would happen. 
TIP #2: Consider whether or not your character is afraid of flying. If so, show his/her fear by having him/her clench the armrests, take Valium, pray and/or jump at every little thing.

3. Flight

What does your character do during the flight? Sleep, read, or watch a movie? You don’t have to detail every minute of the flight, but mentioning what your character does is a nice touch. You can also describe the turbulence that bounces your characters and their belongings.

4. Landing

Usually the landing is smooth but it can also be bumpy. After the landing, follow your character through the airport. Once he/she is outside, you can begin the rest of your story and the purpose for the trip.



QUESTIONS: Are you afraid of flying? Have you ever traveled by plane? Where did you go?

I’ve only been to Michigan, but I traveled there by myself from Florida when I was seventeen and it was my first time ever on a plane. I’m usually afraid of heights, but I did good!


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74 comments:

  1. Unless it crashes. Yeah, that would suck. Not a fan of plane rides.

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    1. That would suck in real life and fiction, but in fiction it could lead to an exciting survival story.

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  2. However much I fly, I still hate it. I flew to and from Canada from England when I went to college there in my late teens. I've flown to places in Europe regularly, and I've been to India plus the US. It was only when I flew on a KLM plane with screens showing the planes altitude etc, that I realised that I shouldn't be scared. Suppose now it's become a fear-habit.

    And now when we move to the US, I have to face flying again. And as I can't walk, there are new problems. But that's going to be a future post on my site.

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    1. To Canada from England is a long trip!

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  3. I'm not necessarily afraid of flying. I'm just not a huge fan of it. And I agree. Sometimes you can use transition scenes like these to add a different dimension to your character.

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    1. I'm not a huge fan of flying either. Though I only did it that one time (there and back).

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  4. Funny enough I never thought about writing about a plane ride until I read your post. And I even outlined a book 3 that takes place in Europe. How is my character suppose to get there? By plane, duh. Will have to remember this. And personally, I prefer to sit in the aisle because it's easier to leave my seat to go to the bathroom. And I don't have to look out the window, seeing how high up I am freaks me out. I'm not afraid of heights, it's just the falling part that gives me the chills.

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    1. LOL! I'm very glad that I did this post then. I almost didn't because I thought it was too boring. I actually felt better when I looked out the window during takeoff then when I forced myself to look straight ahead. Looking straight ahead made me feel everything.

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  5. I'm not afraid of it, though it's been over a decade since I've done it and I've become a bit more anxiety prone in this decade, so I might be now lol...and I have an airport scene in my MS (FL nonetheless!) and this totally helped!! :) bookmarked.

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    1. It's been about just as long for me. I'm glad a couple of people are finding this post useful. I was doubting its usefullness.

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  6. It's really something to read a book written before all these draconian airport security measures in the U.S., with scenes like parents accompanying young children as far as boarding or people allowed to bring more than a tiny amount of liquids onto the plane.

    I've travelled by plane to Florida, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, as well as to Israel. On my third trip to Israel, we had an emergency middle of the night landing in Vienna when an elderly Russian woman a few rows behind me got sick. She was scared of flying, particularly alone, and had taken too much Xanax or some related medicine. She was apologizing to everyone as she was taken off the plane to some hospital or clinic, after some Austrian doctor had come onto the plane and introduced himself (Dr. Scharf, I think his name was). After that adventure, I can honestly say I've been in Austria and Vienna, even though I couldn't get off the plane.

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    1. Times have definitely changed. Airports are a lot more strict, and for good reason.

      I'm sorry she got suck and the plane have to make an emergency landing. I hope to never have to experience that.

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  7. Great suggestions, Chrys. I think the plane ride can really show us something interesting about the main character. Emotional state, for example, if they're flying home for a funeral or a wedding. Also, sometimes plane rides (something about being so high from the ground) can really get us thinking about our life and we may have sudden clarity about a situation or a change we need to make.

    One great example where the plane ride was hilarious was in Bridemaids, the movie. They really made the most of that scene and it revealed many things about the characters. It also served to put a wedge between the main characters and we wanted to know how it would get resolved.

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    1. Those are great points, Lisa. The reason for the trip can really show the character's emotional state.

      I still haven't seen Bridesmaids!

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  8. I love flying. For years, I never got the opportunity until I started taking trips overseas. The first time I went, I flew to London and Paris. The second time my friend and I literally did the planes, trains and automobile thing. We flew to Dublin Ireland, rented a car and drove to Belfast, then flew to London, Took the train to Liverpool, another plane to Isle of Mann, then another back to Ireland, and one more back home. I would fly any opportunity I get now. And being the good writer that I am, I already used some of the experiences of flying, even if for just a short clip in one of the stories I wrote where the charters are going on a senior class field-trip overseas. One of the boys is excited, one is not.

    “Write about what? Our trip to the UK will amount to a 10 hour flight in cramped seating, followed by tourist traps. Not exactly exciting.”

    “It’s not the trip itself I want to write about. It’s the experience. Yes, I could always write about taking a trip before, but now I’ll be able to describe it. The gut feeling when the plane takes off, the stale taste of the packed peanuts, the frustration of waiting for our luggage.”

    “And the frustration when they send your luggage to Singapore. You know that’s going to happen.”

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    1. Gosh, I wish I could travel as much as you have. I wonder how I'd do on an overseas flight.

      I think it's cool your characters talked about writing about their flight. I'm not the only one who thinks about this stuff. ;)

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    2. The first time I flew, there was the volcano in iceland spewing spoke and my flight nearly got cancelled. Even after the flight was cleared to depart, there was always a worry about the thick volcanic ash smoke clogging the engines and causing a crash. At least that was the word in the airport. It was a very nervous and apprehensive time for me, but I was so thrilled with the flight and taking pictures of the clouds below and recording my thoughts and feelings, all apprehension subsided.

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    3. That would be terrifying! I have heard that ash can clog engines and cause helicopters and planes to fail.

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  9. Good stuff here! I imagine I wouldn't ever write about an airport unless it involved some conflict... like maybe my character is deathly afraid of flying or luggage with something very important goes missing. I don't know. Some of these things didn't occur to me!

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    1. Air ports can make some exciting scenes. A lot can happen and things can go horrible wrong.

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  10. Other than the constraints of air travel these days, I don't mind. But my first flight was memorable in that I had never done so before, had never left home (yet), did not know the person meeting me on the other end and I was traveling alone - at age eleven.
    "Long after everyone else had disembarked I remained in my seat staring out the tiny rain-streaked window at the man in the trench coat on the tarmac, in the dark..."
    Stimulating post, Chrys - thanks!

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    1. I would've been terrified if I had to do that at eleven!

      Oh, is that a piece from a WIP? It's good!

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    2. Aw, thanks, Chrys! It's more an excerpt from the memoir I may never get around to writing - ha!

      Delete
  11. Until you said, unless it crashes, I was thinking good thoughts. Airports are a great place to people watch. I used to never get on a plane unless I was toasted! As I got older, the jet lag was killing me and I had to sober up, so I would pop a pill or two. Now, I can go the entire trip au natural, but I will never get over being afraid. My last trip was coming back from Vegas and it was bumpy all the way. I thought I was going to lose it, the muscles in my neck and shoulders were so tight I thought my explosive headache would make my head pop off. Was I ever glad to get home. But...sometimes the only way to get there is to fly.
    sherry @ fundinmental

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    1. HAHA! Oops. :P The thought of taking a pill or being toasted on a plane makes my anxiety worse.

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  12. Hi,
    I'm not afraid of flying and I do it often. Yet there's something about the take off and the landing that makes me hold on to my seat and say a prayer.

    As for my characters moving, flying, whatever, they do it. Like you, I want them to be as real as possible.
    Shalom,
    Patricia

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    1. The take off and landing can be quite bumpy.

      That's good! :)

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  13. It's been probably about 10 years since I've been on a plane. Too much of a hassle and too expensive, so hubby and I drive everywhere.

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    1. Same here...about 10 years since being on a plane. I don't drive but have always wanted to go on a road trip.

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  14. You could have your character take a train (or boat or walk or drive).... And remember, not all airports are large--you often go through a large airport, but many of my destinations have taken me through small airports--I once lived in a town out west that had 3 flights a day (30 people each flight). The check in person, after a few times, knew you by name! of course, then I had to go through Salt Lake, a large airport.

    I don't fear flying, but I hate the hurry up and wait attitude. When I fly I find I am always in a hurry, on a train I find I can sit back and enjoy the trip (something hard to do on a crowded plane... On, I just remember a "plane horror story" that I blogged about....http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.com/2010/10/wet-dreams-and-sleepless-nights.html

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    1. That's true. Just...as you said.... you often go through large airports to get to a destination. The airport I landed in Michigan was pretty small. And I've never been on a train. I'd want to experience it before putting a character on one.

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    2. I'm curious about the airport in Michigan, do you remember which one? I've flown out of a lot of them as I lived there for over a decade.

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  15. I'm not a big fan of flying. Only when necessary. It is nice to fly halfway across the country in only a couple of hours though. I got lost in an airport one time. Almost missed my connecting flight. Made it just in time. It pays to ask someone. :)

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    1. I remember stepping off the plane and thinking I was still in FL although I was across the US.

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  16. The older I get, the less I like flying.

    Airports are like mini-cities, full of so many interesting stories - the ones that are true/real, and the ones we create. :)

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  17. I've been on a plane quite a few times, but I freak out every time. I find that the smaller airports are slightly less confusing. I did fly by myself twice from NY (Where I live) to Miami and back. That was horrible. lol

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    1. Smaller airports are better. The big ones are too chaotic.

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  18. I've flown a few times in the past couple years after not being on a plane since I was 6. I don't really mind it, but I always think I'm going to be productive during the flight and just end up watching TV instead. I've never written about a flight, though!

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  19. I am usually a nervous flyer and clench the armrests on landing and especially on takeoff. I wasn't nervous the last couple of times - waiting to see if the next time I fly I'll be nervous - if not, I have a theory on why not. :)

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    1. Oh, and also, you are a winner on my blog!

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    2. Nervous flyers are the best characters in fiction!

      Really? I am? SQUEE!!! :D

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  20. I have only flown a couple of times in my life. I am a little nervous at takeoff and landing, but in the middle I am pretty good and keep myself occupied with reading. :) It has been about 10 years since I have flown- so I am guessing I will be even more nervous again the next time!
    ~Jess

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    1. You're about the third person to say it's been 10 years. It's the same for me.

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  21. I've never written a plane scene. Maybe I need to. :)

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  22. I sent a whole class of kids over to your post on the Ultimate Editing List, Chrys! Ha ha ha...you're the best.

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  23. I haven't been on a plane in a long time, but I've been to the Pacific Northwest, Illinois, and Texas on various trips. Take offs from John Wayne Airport are... interesting. (There's a noise ordinance, so they have to go practically straight up, then turn over the ocean.)

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  24. This is a great, unique post! I've only had to write an airport scene once (years ago), but I feel like I did it rather terribly. This will be a good reference point if I ever need to write one again! I think the last time I flew, I was four years old, going to Disney ;)

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  25. Ugg, I don't mind the plane so much, is all the rigamoral before and after that gets annoying as can be. Don' think I ever wrote an airport scene though

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    1. Airports are so hectic. I wish we could avoid them.

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  26. You are so good about sharing writing tips:)

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  27. Those take offs and landings ca be a challenge. But taking off half my clothes before boarding is even worse. Now there's a story for you! :-)

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  28. All great ideas for writing about flying :) I'm not a flyer. Actually I detest flying, LOL :) The last time I flew was back in 2005. I don't plan to fly again LOL :) And actually it was a very smooth flight, but heights and me don't quite get along :)

    betty

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    1. You're another one who said it's been 10 years. That's like 5 or so. Including me.

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  29. I used to enjoy flying for the excitement of seeing new places at the other end. Now, the dominant features are the waiting, and being treated like cattle at every stage of the journey.

    As for which parts to include or leave out, the big question for me is always - how does this scene move the story forward? Does is reveal something about the world or the character? Does it give you an opportunity to introduce some set-up for later - some seemingly unimportant observation that will become important later on?

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    1. Treated like cattle. YUP! You're write about that.

      I think airports scenes or flight scenes do more stories along because the characters are going somewhere and they can certainly reveal a lot of a character too. :)

      Delete
  30. I have travelled more than once on planes and I am terrified of heights but I am ok on a plane. I think it seems cozy and enclosed not like in a small car ready to go off the bridge to my death:) Let's see, there is the time I thought I had closed the bathroom door only to find out, to my horror, that I didn't. The man opened the door and all the people in their seats looked back and saw me in full glory. I was 18..I wanted to die. I recall coming into Frankfurt and seeing the roofs of the homes only for the flaps to move and the plane going up dramatically. There was intense fog and this was happening for an hour. To say we all clapped when we landed would be an understatement-it sounded like we just had seen our lives flash before our eyes...oh wait, I think it did. The last plane ride made me understand the life of the undead sardine in a can. My hubby on one side and a nice old man on the other who had not seen a tub in 10 years and felt compelled to slowly kill me from the undead stench coming from his mouth. I felt like throwing some mints into his mouth but I don't think that would have worked.

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    1. I'm terrified of heights too but pretty good on planes. Or I was...ten years ago. :P

      Oh, gosh! That would've been mortifying! And I sure would hate to have to sit next to someone like that.

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  31. I love the take-offs but the landings always take ten seconds too long. I'm almost always convinced I'm going to die. :-P

    Anna from Elements of Writing

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    1. I don't like the take-offs and the feeling of being pushed into my seat and the elevating. EEK! :P

      Delete
  32. All in all one must gather enough compelling research to make the story believable. You've raised fair points about knowing what to include and not include when writing about a plane ride, very insightful post indeed.

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    1. Thanks, Blogoratti.

      Research is always a must.

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  33. Sharp blog post. I know we skip the traveling when nothing happens, but the chaos of an airport, security, terrorist risk, and then boarding plus the actual flight time can add for some major conflict. You've given us a thorough breakdown of an airport , airplane scene including all the components to up the tension. Well done.

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    1. It can add conflict! I added a nice little bit of conflict when my characters landed in their destination and were in the airport.

      Thanks!

      Delete
  34. I love the take-off!
    Such a fabulous sensation as your stomach does a flip-flop!
    Great post, Chrys!

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