Writing Advice / Writing Inspiration

why trains are important to writing

I love trains. I don’t care about the mechanics, and I’m not into building little model tracks. But there’s something about sitting on those uncomfortable blue station seats, hearing the horn blast from a distance, feeling the shove of air as the carriages whizz past, that just gets me. You’re really going somewhere.

Maybe (like I did), you come across a cross-eyed father of two, or an old man shaking Saxa salt into a container of rice, or a woman reading Fifty Shades of Grey (lesson one: do not read porn in public).

Trains can be places of literary gold.

The most interesting characters can come from glimpses of real people, especially those you know nothing about. Physical descriptions come easier if you’ve actually seen them, and you can let your imagination just run with it. I often make up backstories and plots for people I see on public transport – we have to get ideas from somewhere, right?

Eavesdropping is like a writer’s bread and butter, to me. You’ve gotta listen to real people to write real characters, the kind who have real voices, who speak authentic dialogue.

I swear I once overheard a woman on a train who said

“Her name’s not lovin’, her name’s Dianne”

which should be in a poem or something, I reckon. I’ll find a place for it one day. Maybe.

I’ve written a few bits and pieces from things inspired by trains, or at least the people on them. I’m curious as to whether trains, or buses, or taxis, or planes, are places that other people use for ideas when writing. I don’t think whoever invented trains ever realised how important they’d be for writers: Murder on the Orient Express, The Little Engine That Could, even Harry Potter was thought up on a train trip.

What i’m trying to say is, Trains = Awesome.


2 thoughts on “why trains are important to writing

  1. What a great idea. I never thought about all the different characters and plots you could come up with while travelling on public transport. Probably because I usually have my eyes glued on two kids and don’t have time to be studying anyone else! But, the next time I’m siting on a train or plane (alone!) I will have my pen and pad at the ready. I do like sitting at cafes or in the food hall of shops watching people go by.

    • You’re right, people watching and being observant is really helpful in writing, and you can do it just about anywhere. I have a little blue notebook that I keep stashed in my bag for jotting down interesting details, it really comes in handy!

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