The opening anecdote

Pixar tells compelling stories with their animated films. They know they excel at this skill and often share their story-structural know-how with those who are curious. In a lecture about Pixar’s story process, Story Artist Austin Madison drew a simple chart of a storyline that shows but a few components.

Illustrations by Lindsay Clark

In many movies, particularly those in the action genre, there is a spike of intensity in the first few minutes. Immediately, the viewer is engaged by the visuals, movement, sounds, and struggles of the characters. That same intensity usually returns at the story’s climax, but the difference is that character development allows the viewer to be far more invested and connected to the events of the climax.

Illustrations by Lindsay Clark

This shape can also chart the events of a piece of travel writing. Start a piece with an anecdote; it can provide the reader with an accessible entry point into the emotion and setting of your story. If rich with sensory details, this anecdote can create a visceral experience in which the reader can immerse themselves. The readers can thus participate in the author’s emotional experience.

Anecdotes don’t have to live at the front of travel writing; they can live within.

When writing a travel story, sometimes you have a minor character or incident that doesn’t fit well in the plot, but which, if included, would add a particularly rich detail or reinforce the story’s overall theme. This is when you need to utilize anecdotes. An anecdote works best when it returns the reader to the story with a new sense of understanding or awareness of the characters.

(Miller, 2009)