San Francisco
The Writing Process

Paint the Scene

The overwhelming smell of fish permeated the moist, morning air as Angela made her way through the wharf. All was still and quiet now, but she knew Market Street would be bustling with tourists later. Every now and then the bay would appear to her right, peeking at her between the buildings, and if she really squinted, she could make out the tiny island that held more secrets than anyone would ever know. A plume of white flour could be seen swirling out from the vents at the bakery, and the crab vendors were setting up their stands for another day. She veered left to make her way onto Taylor Street and passed a line of tourists already waiting at the Powell/Mason cable car stop. They were always so easy to spot around the city: large cameras hanging from their necks, sneakers, jeans and a sweatshirt—most likely purchased from one of the local shops. So many people underestimated just how cold it could be in the summer months. Angela, herself, had only moved to the city a year ago, but she could pinpoint the exact moment she had fallen in love with the “city by the bay”.

San FranciscoIf you haven’t figured it out already, the paragraph above is a description of what one might see along an early morning walk through Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The first sentence lets the reader know approximately what time of day it is and some details of the area. As the reader moves through the paragraph, they pick up on more details of the area, the sights, the smells, other people that might be in the area and even the weather. The reader might not yet know the exact location, but the transportation process has already begun.

One key item to remember in story telling is always “show don’t tell”. What that means is, it’s important to walk the reader through the story instead of telling them what happened.

If you are one that travels, do you keep a detailed travel journal? You can actually use your travel journal as a way to build a story. Use the location from one of your trips and pull information from your travel journal to plot out the story, describe a historic landmark or to just get your bearings on the location again. Then, the only thing left to remember is to use detailed descriptions.

If I told you, “Angela bikes to the Golden Gate Bridge on Tuesday mornings,” yet you had never been to the Golden Gate Bridge, you’d gain nothing from that piece of information. Instead, if I wrote something like this: “Angela never let the fog get in her way of biking to the Golden Gate Bridge on Tuesday mornings. She loved the way its large, orange colored structure poked out from the gray haze on even the foggiest mornings. To her, the bridge represented determination and strength…” you would have a better understanding of what the bridge actually looked like and why it might be important for Angela to go there every Tuesday morning.

If you haven’t guessed it already, this month our blog writers are focusing on travel, both in the literal sense of taking a trip and documenting it, and in the writing sense of transporting readers to the scenes set in your book. So, make sure to keep coming back the entire month of July.

We’d also love to hear your favorite travel destination and what you love about it!


Erika Bennett is the Content Manager for Xulon Press. She has worked in the publishing industry for more than a decade and her passion is to make sure great books find their way into readers' hands. You can also find her writing on

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