The Secrets to Writing Armchair Travel by Rebecca Raisin | Resources | Better Fiction Guides | The Art of Description
Rebecca Raisin

Rebecca Raisin

When the world shut down and the chance to escape on a whim was taken from us it became apparent how important armchair-travel romance novels were for readers. Although we couldn’t board a flight and head to sunnier climes, prose could still whisk us away and fulfil that need to be elsewhere, to shut off from the real world for a while.

So what are some of the secrets to writing armchair travel? Firstly, destination. I’ve always been enamored by Paris, so it was an easy choice for me to set The Little Paris Collection of books there. In these books Paris is almost a character unto itself because it’s featured it heavily among the pages. But not the way you think. My heroines found the hidden gems. Experiences that only locals know about. Hole in the wall eateries. Antique markets further afield. Hidden clubs. The hotel a famous kiss happened. A garden that has benches shaped like books. Make it different!

Every place has these unique spots so when it comes to researching a place, I ignore the main tourist attractions and delve deeper. Read travel blogs, watch vlogs, search hashtags, read historical books set in that location. Find something that the reader might not have heard of but is appealing to them. These tie in with what my character likes too, so if she’s a bookworm, what does the city offer for bookworms? Find the plaque where a famous writer once lived. Set a scene there. Does something exciting happen under that plaque?

Elodie’s Library of Second ChancesI want readers to feel like they’re right there with my characters, that they’re exploring the city too. Paint a picture of a place so vividly that your reader can envision it from the sights, scents and sounds and what those senses conjure. Do those things make your heroine want to start a new life here? Is there an inkling she might give her heart to this new city? There might be a honeymoon period for your heroine, she’s dazzled by the beauty, the history, culture of this new place, but what happens when reality sneaks up again?

It can’t be easy, escaping and starting over. So secondly, figure out your heroine’s goal. What does she yearn for that is just out of reach? Use the setting to show this, how she copes, what she’s struggling with? Does she want to be brave, and explore the city at night, but can’t work up the courage in case she gets lost. When she finally does face her fears, maybe she does get lost. But the important thing is she is trying to move forward in this new life, no matter how many obstacles she faces.

There should be plenty of things that stop her from getting what she wants. We need to see her work for this. Show us how she deals with conflict. This conflict will help move the plot along. Think about her internal and external conflicts – it might be living in the big city/small rural scape/island that she has external conflict with, for example the traffic noise, finding her feet, too many people, but what is she struggling with internally? Is it self-image, or wanting to be brave and bold but not having the confidence to be that person just yet?

Showing these to the reader make your characters more relatable and shows that growth isn’t linear either. There will be a lot of ups and downs before she finds what she’s looking for and who she is.

While my heroine might fall in love with the idea of a different location, what parts of this place challenge her and make her doubt her ability to stay? Is it a person who does that? Is she a small-town woman who is terrified of the bustling metro at peak hour, the hordes of people at all hours, every single day? The cost of living. Not knowing a single person. Show your reader how your heroine copes or struggles with these scenarios, and what she must face in order to drive the plot forward.

When she has the very worst day and she’s sure she’s going to pack up her bags and go home, what stops her? Where does she find comfort in that bustling city/rural scape/island?

Towards the end of your MS, figure out what’s changed with your heroine. How has location aided in that change? What was she like at the beginning of the book, compared to now? Did she find the city hard to navigate but now she can hip-bump herself onto the Metro like a pro? Is she haggling at the fruit market like a local? What drove that character growth? Sheer tenacity? A love interest who made her feel whole? Or the fact that life is often messy and challenging and there are good days and bad but moving to a new city was the best thing she ever did. No matter that it wasn’t always easy because nothing ever is.

(c) Rebecca Raisin

Elodie’s Library of Second Chances by Rebecca Raisin is out now by HQ Digital, £8.99.

About Elodie’s Library of Second Chances:

Elodie’s Library of Second ChancesEveryone has a story. You just have to read between the lines…

When Elodie applies for the job of librarian in peaceful Willow Grove, she’s looking forward to a new start. As the daughter of a media empire, her every move has been watched for years, and she longs to work with the thing she loves most: books.

It’s a chance to make a real difference too, because she soon realises that there are other people in Willow Grove who might need a fresh start – like the homeless man everyone walks past without seeing, or the divorcée who can’t seem to escape her former husband’s misdeeds.

Together with local journalist Finn, Elodie decides these people have stories that need sharing. What if instead of borrowing books readers could ‘borrow’ a person, and hear the life stories of those they’ve overlooked?

But Elodie isn’t quite sharing her whole story either. As the story of the library’s new success grows, will her own secret be revealed?

An uplifting story about fresh starts, new beginnings and the power of stories, from the bestselling author of Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop!

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Rebecca Raisin is the author of several novels, including the beloved Little Paris series and the Gingerbread Café trilogy, and her short stories have been published in various anthologies and fiction magazines. You can follow Rebecca on Facebook, and at

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