I'm writing a chapter that must illustrate:

  1. the character's feelings upon returning (for a short period) to their homeland after living abroad (and believing they'd never return), to where the character will soon go back

  2. the character's reaction while meeting the family and friends after a separation of 10 years, knowing the next separation will be permanent

The problem is two-fold: the journey is slow and long; and, for 1 and 2 to be appropriately expressed, they can't happen simultaneously, as no.2 would tone down no.1.

My decision was to start during a break in the journey (the last one) and then allow the character to express no.1 up until the point the destination becomes visible in the distance. At that point, no.1 vanishes from the character's mind to give way to the excitement and anxiety of the meeting, which keep growing until they all finally meet.

The idea is sound, I believe, but I'm not quite satisfied with the result.

  • The first five paragraphs dealing with no.1 are short and to the point, which don't help convey the idea of a long journey, even if they allow for the character's feelings to be expressed perfectly.

  • The destination is visible in the distance a long time before arrival, which makes the anxiety and the following paragraphs feel stretched.

What other techniques (or approaches) would you suggest to create the right effect (of a long journey divided into a first moment of short reflexion and a second moment of growing enxiety)?

2 Answers 2


I would suggest you treat the location as a character in its own right. Your MC has a bond with their hometown that is entirely personal to them, and they have memories there that they share with no one else in their family. Of course, they will still deeply associate the homeland with the presence of their family, so this will serve as the link between your two points.

For point 1, I would come up with a place in the vicinity that has deep personal value to the MC. Maybe it is the corner where they had their first kiss, or the bar where they had their first fight, or the quiet spot they used to wander to at midnight when they couldn’t sleep. The swingset in the park is an old favourite.

On their way to see their family, they stop by at this spot (by coincidence or on purpose). Let them bask in the memory, or the present reality of it for a short moment. Here you can give them a break and express how tired they are after the long journey. Maybe it was so long that they felt like it would never end. Thus, it hasn’t really sunk in yet that they’ve finally arrived and will be meeting their family shortly (or maybe they’re dreading it so much that they have been avoiding even thinking about it).

But the memories of their current location are so strong that it jogs them into reality. They have arrived home. The family is just around the corner/across town/however close you want them to be. Now it has sunk in – and the distant, niggling worries about meeting the family become suddenly real. Point 2 has begun, and they have the rest of the trip (now a rather shorter one) to build up the anxiety and excitement about the reunion.

  • 1
    I really like this concept of treating a location as a character
    – elrobis
    May 22, 2017 at 20:09

1) Character boards plane or train - looks out of window. Flashback to last contact with individuals (family and friends). Flashforward to 'imagined' reunion scenes.

2) Show actual reunion in now way resembles envisioned reunion. Character realises he no longer belongs here.

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