Posted in Film, Writing

How to Use Travel in Your Fiction


Watching Like a Writer is a movie review series that looks at films from the perspective of a fiction writer, complete with one writing takeaway, and an exercise that will help better your fiction!

Review — Eat, Pray, Love (2010)

Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for her hugely entertaining and heartfelt performance in Erin Brockovich, but that Oscar didn’t exactly lead to bigger and better things for the megastar. The big win seemed to cap her prior decade that started with Pretty Woman, segued into My Best Friends’ Wedding and Notting Hill, and ended with Soderbergh’s popular biopic.

Most of the 2000s didn’t see many lead roles for Roberts, so it was a great delight to watch Roberts back in the driver’s seat for Eat, Pray, Love on its release in August 2010. While the movie isn’t as great as it could have been — it’s too long, too slow, and too one-note — watching the radiant Roberts is a joy in and of itself.

Based on the successful 2006 bestseller by Elizabeth Gilbert, the film tells the true story of Gilbert’s journey across the Atlantic to find herself. She abandons her husband, as well as her new young lover, to travel to Italy, India, and Bali, on a year quest to find meaning, peace, and real love in her life. She also just really, really wants to eat some delicious pasta.

Director Ryan Murphy definitely has a more winning formula with his television endeavors than he has with his films. Both based on bestselling novels, both this and Running with Scissors didn’t manage to find an emotional connection with its audience. He’s a huge talent, and there is definitely a great movie in him, but he has yet to hit the bulls-eye.

In Eat Pray Love it’s difficult to grasp the character’s frustration in her life before bolting for Rome. Billy Crudup plays her husband as a bit of a schmuck, but a loving schmuck. And then there’s her little fling with an actor played by James Franco, who just seems a tad too gorgeous, creative, and fun to inflict a temporary debilitating depression.

The most enjoyable part of the movie is all the material in Italy, where Roberts feeds on everything in sight, but the material in Italy and Bali fail to ignite much interest. Much of the second half of the movie plays all on one-note, without much emotion or change to lighten up the proceedings. Everything at the end with the Javier Bardem seems a tad forced — Roberts and Bardem don’t have a lot of chemistry — and the cookie-cutter ending particularly doesn’t ring true.

Watching Like a Writer

Eat, Pray, Love makes me think about attempting a story that takes my protagonist on a long journey that takes him or her around the world. I just finished reading the novel Less, a fascinating tale that takes the main character to various countries around the world as he tries to find himself again, and I’m intrigued by this idea for a novel or even a short story. Travel does change you in a way, even if the trip is short, and so I want to attempt a narrative in which the protagonist changes considerably in part due to his or her time traveling to different countries.


Imagine a story where your main character traveled to three countries as part of the narrative. What three countries would you pick, and why?

2 thoughts on “How to Use Travel in Your Fiction

  1. This really hit home for me as I just finished a big road trip across Europe! 🙂 I definitely plan to use a lot of it in my writing moving forward. I’m sure you will enjoy incorporating travel into your own writing

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