On Friday afternoon the reading group said goodbye to Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. The narrator has been a remarkably good host: fun, informative and welcoming. I’m feeling a little lost, a little disorientated, now that I’ve got both feet firmly planted in the present.
But I’ve learned a lot. Putting aside the insights this novel has given about English History and life in the Eighteenth Century, Fielding’s management of cast and content was, to use a cliché, masterly.
For a reading group, there’s masses to think and talk about. Writer’s might like to look at some of the techniques he employs. I want to draw your attention to the way Tom’s journey provides structure.
Road-stories are a tradition that can be traced back through literary history. Think, The Odyssey, jump forward to Don Quixote, and then further forward, Three men in a Boat, The Remains of the Day, or even more recently, The Hundred-Year-Old Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared. And then there are the fantasy novels, just think about how many of those are based on journeys…
When characters have to move from one geographical location to another some of those important five Ws are instantly set in place:
- Where from and to?
Once you’ve set your character a reason for travelling, and a definite goal, you’ll need to figure out two more of those Ws: when & what will happen along the way? The possibilities are endless.
And the great thing about journeys is that long or short fiction can put them to effective use.
*Painting, The Last of England, by Ford Madox Brown