Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Train as a Character

As many fiction writers -- and readers -- know, the setting of a story can sometimes be the most essential part. In fact, the time, place, tone, and feel of a work is often crucial. A good example of this is TRACKS, a novel in stories.

TRACKS takes place on the Amtrak’s Cardinal line, traveling from Baltimore to Chicago. In some ways, the train itself is the most important character of the novel, linking the stories like passenger cars.

Each stand-alone story in the novel is that of a passenger on the train. Without the train, the stories would fall apart and there would be no engine to haul them along.

It’s true that the train plays a more vital role in some stories than others. In some stories featured in TRACKS, one could even forget for pages at a time that the main character is on a train, a majority of the action taking place in flashbacks and future visions. Many regular train travelers will tell you, after all, that sometimes a train ride can conjure up memories or dreams that take you out of the present moment.

For other stories in TRACKS, the action and climax actually take place on the moving train.

The cities linked by this train ride -- Baltimore and Chicago -- are also important to some of the characters. Some stories could not exist without being anchored in Baltimore’s inner harbor or without the lure of the windy city’s Millennium Park.

Even the cadence of the writing in TRACKS matches that of a train, a steady rhythm intended to pull the reader along. In fact, TRACKS would make great train reading. If you travel by train, perhaps this is the book to bring along.


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