Here’s a spread for a novel I wrote earlier this year. Usually a spread is a useful tool for me that helps me keep things straight when I’m working on something with a lot of characters. I’ve written about them before, they’re usually great, but in this case it nearly killed me.
If you look past the photos and redacted stuff, you see a nice beach there.
I’m stationed in North Dakota at the moment. Summers are short, winters are long, and it’s not a particularly attractive or charming place to be. The ocean… well, I haven’t seen it in so long that it’s possible it might only exist in my mind at this point. I suppose I get into the settings I write about as much as the next guy, some more than others – but there was something about doing a novel set on an idealized Caribbean island that really got to me as I was here, wasting away pitifully in the joint.
The first world problem of being somewhere lame when you really just want to move to Providenciales is no joke. Actually, it was rather Kafkaesque, including all my usual nightmares and existential crises that I deal with on a daily basis, except with a theme of sandy beaches and grass skirts. Terrifying. I don’t know how I survived.
The next level writing lesson here is that a seemingly benign writing tool can be a terrible drain on morale if used irresponsibly, and it’s not out of the question that idealized settings might actually be fundamentally bad and/or evil. It’s like all those cautionary stories about people finding magical artifacts and nonsense like that and misusing them and bringing tragedy on themselves. Only here it’s not an artifact, it’s the imagination itself that’s out to get you. I know, kind of bleak, but writing gets more dangerous every day. The struggle.
I’m playing it safe and only writing books set in Siberia from now on. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.