I have hit the first proverbial brick wall in my Romans Vs Aliens novel and though it is not about the content, it is about how I get my gladiators from Rome to Germany. I have written all I need to write about events in Rome and have a few short half chapters set at the camp. What I am stuck on is what happens in between.
I am torn between writing a fully-fleshed out journey up through Italy, across the Alps, into modern Switzerland, skirting around the edge of modern France and into Germany where they are to reach Mogontiacum (Mainz) for resupply and more information from the city governor and the German ally. I had originally decided they would make a pit stop at Augusta Treverorum but have since moved that to Mogontiacum as it is closer to the Limes (border) and a little farther east. The issue is then moving them beyond the Limes and into Germania Magna which I fully intend to write.
On one hand, a road trip gives a book an epic feel – especially if a lot of stuff happens on the route. Lord of the Rings is a fine example of this kind of road-trip plotting but stuff is actually happening on the route; I’m not sure if mine will or that I even want it to. However, when a road trip goes wrong it can go horribly wrong. It can feel unnecessarily drawn out, adds details that are irrelevant to the plot and feel that the writer is bloating the text purely to increase the retail value of the book. A good example of this is C.J. Sansom’s fifth Shardlake book Heartstone which has over 100 pages of travel merely moving the protagonists from London to Portsmouth, a distance of just 73 miles.
On the other hand I like books that cut to the chase. Lindsey Davis’ Falco books often take place across the Empire. Falco has travelled to Greece, Iberia (Spain), Syria, Gaul (France), Germania and Britannia in the first ten books. Not much of the journey is explained in the narrative. Often we will go from one chapter to the next having cut out the actual travel, getting to the nitty-gritty of the story.
And this is where I am torn. This novel is primarily an action piece, but it is also shaping up to be very character-driven. I have written, and definitely want to use, a number of flashback pieces that are absolutely integral to what will happen to the men in the early stages of their arrival in Germany, and how they will react to what will happen. At the moment, I cannot think of any better way to work these in without interspersing them on a road trip, which I think will work well.
Has anybody else come up against this problem? How did you deal with it? Do you prefer to write road trips or cut them out completely? Any insight will be appreciated here!