Saturday, August 6, 2016

What Is It About the Beach?

By Katherine Kingston

Is the question too obvious? Sun, sand, surf, seafood… I mean, really. If you can’t have fun at the beach, you just aren’t trying.

Sunrise Over the Atlantic Ocean
But since I chose to set my story in the upcoming Naughty Haunts anthology at the beach, let me take the question a bit more seriously. Especially since the fall setting means that some of the summer fun stuff doesn’t figure all that much into it.

But Coastal Ghost still utilizes the setting in a fairly typical way. My heroine’s on a vacation/retreat to celebrate the one-year anniversary of a devastating break-up with her former fiance, marking the transition from grief to new life. She’s not playing summer games, but she’s ready to soak up some warm weather (more moderate in fall in North Carolina, but still generally comfortable), some peace and quiet, and let her soul be soothed by the rumble of the breaking waves and caress of the ocean breeze.

She isn’t looking for a new love, not yet, but the transition means that when it arrives (with the help of a supernatural resident of her rented beach house), she’s at least open to the possibilities. And if that means trying out some new things she’s never had the nerve to do before, then it’s time to move out and become a new version of herself.

And that’s what the seaside, that area where vast stretch of water meets vast stretch of land in a rolling, booming, never-ending fan of waves, represents on several levels.

On the shallowest level, a trip to the beach usual means setting aside other business and ordinary daily tasks for a time devoted to rest and recreation. Notice that word: recreation. We usually use it to mean play time or sports. But it’s re-creation. We recreate ourselves from the rest and relaxation.

Rest and recreation allows time for dwelling on where we’ve been and where we’re going without the distraction of everyday tasks and worries. It allows us a deep look at who we are and the chance to decide who we want to be.

In the more cosmic sense, waves scour the beach and break down bits of shell and other debris into sand. Creating a new thing from the wreckage of another. In the psychological sense, water represents the peace of the womb and a dunk into the water symbolizes rebirth from it.

Was I thinking about all that as I wrote the story?  Hell no. I was just contemplating the characters and what would happen to them and I let my story-telling mind take it from there.