07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fabulous Vacation--Not So Great Novel Setting

Amelia Island is a hidden gem of a beach, just south of the Florida-Georgia line. One of the chain of barrier islands stretching along the east coast, Amelia Island is 13 miles long and approximately 4 miles wide at its widest point. Named for Princess Amelia, daughter of George II, the island changed hands between colonial powers and has claimed French, Spanish, British, Patriot, Green Cross, Mexican, Confederate, and United States flags.

You might find a more stunning tropical beach at some posh destination, but for the price of lodging and ease of access (assuming you live in the Southeast U.S.), you can't beat this little beauty. Amelia Island is also the site of one of my best vacations ever.

Why? For starters, any beach—by its very nature—immediately conjures images of fabulous holidays. There's something about the ocean, the salty air and sound of the waves that takes your cares away and makes life somehow better. Seriously, have you ever heard anyone say, “We went to the beach and it was awful”?

No way. You may get some complaints about rain, although most of us love walking on the beach in an afternoon shower, but in general you have a head start to a great vacation if there’s a coast in your destination.

Yet this particular beach vacation had more—so much more. In addition to the advantages of sand and sea, my hubby was healthy, my almost-twenty daughter wasn’t grumpy, and the accommodations were awesome. My spouse and I spend a full day simply making a sandcastle—although when you’re married to an architectural drafter, there’s nothing simple about seaside construction.

So being a writer, what’s the first thing I did when I got home? You guessed it, set a story on the island.

But it didn’t work. I’m guessing my error was my inability to associate conflict with this particular location--I couldn't associate the location with anything bad. I think I had better luck with a different beach town in my young adult thriller, The Secret Language of Leah Sinclair. My critique partner, Linda Lovely, created an awesome, conflict-rich story set in a seaside community in her page-turner, Dear Killer, but my endeavor didn’t have the same outcome.
What do you think? Do beaches make good backdrops for novels?
Robin Weaver


Sandy Bruney said...

Absolutely. I've read some good stories set in beaches or beach towns. Usually in New England, though. The good feelings people have about the beach would be a great contrast to a dark event happening there. Sort of "It can't happen here..." but it does.

Judith Ashley said...

I also love the beach - the smell of the salt sea air when we're close nudges my body to relax even before I see the ocean.

In my short story, "Sarah's Ankh" (Love & Magick anthology) two scenes are set at the beach. The Big Fight and the resolution. It never occurred to me to leave the big fight scene as the only scene at the beach.

So I think the answer is, it can but I'd not want the beach part of the story to be all conflict, etc. with no happily ever after.

Lori Waters said...

I was born and raised in Virginia Beach. So for me, the beach is a magical place. Especially for a first kiss, a proposal or healing from a broken heart. So my answer is YES...

Sarah Raplee said...

Beaches can make a good backdrop for a novel, but that doesn't mean they work for every author. You associate the beach with only good, relaxing, happy memories.

I love the beach, but I could easily write a suspense novel set there. My associations with the beach are much more complex than yours. For example, while some of my best memories are of the beach, but I grew up on a tropical island where we had to watch out for unexploded ordinance leftover from WWII when we explored the beaches. On the cliffs overhead, abandoned artillery posts stood guard.

I would have to have the happy ending set on the beach as well, though!

Ashantay Peters said...

I'd set a story at the beach - and have lots of good books sited at different beaches. Amelia is gorgeous, though, and the neighboring Fernandina is fun!