You know, Lynda, when I started to read your post Setting the Mood with Music, my heart hiccupped. Then, when I got to the part about the coincidences that were happening to you while you were in the Cape Cod town of Sandwich (that is fun to say), all these thoughts bubbled up inside me. Good thing it was my turn to post next or I might have had to hijack the site today.
So let’s talk coincidence: Although I live on the West Coast, I am at this very minute only miles away from you, vacationing on Nantucket Island. We drove through Sandwich a week ago, the mayo, mustard, and lettuce jokes flying. We even passed a road sign announcing that we were near “Mashpee Sandwich.” I mean, a writer couldn’t invent something as good as that puppy. But anyway, here I am in Nantucket, doing the exact same thing as you…researching a future book. (Though not hanging out in prison, tempting as that may be.) I have zero plot, though. This is only for the Future File, but I do know that somehow, someway, a story of mine will be connected to this glorious island.
Nantucket is hardly new to the literary world. Many writers have used it as a setting for their books. In fact, I am looking forward to reading YA author Leila Howland’s NANTUCKET BLUE when it comes out next summer. But even so, I feel this place calling to me, and so I have to answer it. Like Jennifer Zeigler, author of SASS AND SERENDIPITY, said in last week’s joint interview with FALLING FOR HAMLET’s Michelle Ray, “There has to be ownership in what you write, even if you are borrowing elements from other sources.”
The more I write and read, the more I value setting as a character. So far, in my own writing, I have not really given it the importance it deserves. I think this is one of those things you learn as you grow and develop as a writer. So though I don’t have a plot, I do have my first character, and it exists in the crunch of discarded crab shells in the sand under my feet, on the long stretches of flat bike paths, in the full moon that casts a silver glow on the surface of the ocean, in the cold, hard glare of the snapping turtle we caught yesterday…or the…oh, okay, I’ll stop. A girl can get carried away in a place like this.
I suggest to all writers that they don’t look at vacation as a rest stop again, because our job as a story teller never really goes on hiatus. Even if you don’t intend to use a particular place in your books, a nuance from a setting may pop into your head at a random but crucial point someday. And if you do plan to use a specific place, real details will give your writing unimaginable depth. Your next book, Lynda, sounds wonderfully dramatic. I believe that all books, no matter how serious, are made better when humor is added throughout—and certainly you’ve found instant fun in your description of that hilarious Sandwich Police car, if you decide to use it. If you hadn’t mentioned it in your post, and were I attempting to write about my own Sandwich, I would never in a million years have invented such a perfect detail. But don’t worry, I will leave that delicious location entirely to you, my dear, because I will be busy creating stories across the pond about Nantucket.
Oh, I have to run now. It’s time to collect details about what brunch is like at the elegant, breezy White Elephant hotel. Alas, writing is SO hard sometimes.