Time for another question from my mailbag!
Okay, it’s not really a “mailbag”, it’s my inbox, but “question from my inbox” just doesn’t have quite the same ring.
Nevertheless, this is another question I’m frequently asked by travel writers and bloggers….
Q. I keep hearing about this “debate” over what’s considered the best travel writing – narrative essays or information and review pieces….is one really better than the other?
A. No, neither is ‘better’ than the other.
Both are rightly considered travel writing, even though they are completely different in style, tone, and structure. At their core, both are intended to encourage and support tourism, albeit from differing approaches. Both can educate the reader, even though the education is different.
Aside from the writing itself, the biggest difference is generally the intended audience.
Narrative essays appeal to those looking to get a general sense of a place, a feel for somewhere they’ve never been, or to understand a culture, through the eyes and experience of someone else. When you write narrative essay, you’re sharing your experience with others, allowing them to come along on your journey vicariously.
Information and review pieces (aka “service” pieces) are more appealing to consumers who are planning a trip and seeking information – the what, where, when, and even why, about a place before they commit to going there.
Think of it this way: If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to go on an African safari, you’d enjoy reading someone’s essay about their experience – the way the monkeys made them laugh, the scary moment when they saw a water buffalo up close, the wit and humor displayed by their guides, all will give you a sense of having been there.
However, if you’ve already decided to make such a trip and you’re looking to actually book a safari, you’d probably be more interested in a review of some companies that organize safaris, some facts about what time of year is best to go, what you should expect to pay, and perhaps some advice on what to pack.
Both styles of writing serve a purpose, both offer value to the reader.
What’s most important is that you decide which style of writing a particular piece is intended to be, and what your goal for it is, and then put your focus into developing it to the best of your ability.
And stop listening to anyone who tells you that one style is better than the other.
In my opinion, snobbery has no place in the world of writing. Every writer should develop their own style and skill, and understand that for every story there is an appreciative reader, and that’s what it’s all about.