Guest Post: Setting your story by the sea by Damaris West


By Damaris West
Editions: ebook
Publisher: Any Subject Books (March 14, 2012)
Genre: Fiction / Witchcraft and supernatural

Be prepared for a terrifying tale of evil and witchcraft.
From the primitive cottage where she lives a hermit-like existence, Hilda can reach a tidal island which gives her access to a beautiful world, a fragment of the one-time Garden of Eden.
She is almost unique in possessing the gift to pass through to this other world, but her gift puts her in danger from sinister forces that wish to use the island’s power to secure their own domination.
In a bid to rescue a mother and her unborn child, the intended victims of a horrific ritual with cosmic implications, Hilda and her friends must outwit a charismatic warlock (Hilda’s former husband) and the arch-witch Alice, embodiment of evil, who masquerades as a midwife.
Their mission culminates in an act which threatens to tip them over the edge into the same evil world which they are so anxious to destroy. Nonetheless, good prevails, but at a terrible price …
~ Amazon Blurb

About the Author:

Damaris West is a successful novelist, short story writer, poet and publisher. She has written 3 novels, authored an anthology of children’s stories, co-written a book about dog training and penned an off-the-wall guide to Umbria, Italy, along with hundreds of poems. These books are now for sale on Amazon with an anthology of her poems due to be published shortly.
She is keenly enthusiastiac in the correct and deliberate choice of vocabulary to create a vision of characters and places that seems to give them a third dimension. Her own favorite authors are Gavin Maxwell and Rumer Godden.
Apart from writing, Damaris runs Any Subject Books Ltd along with her husband and co-writer, Clive West. New writers are always welcome at the agency.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter


Setting your story by the sea

It’s not surprising that many authors set some or all of their stories on the coast. The power of the sea, the romance of the beach or a life on the waves and the tempestuous storms that can arise in a matter of minutes all make for a stunning backdrop to any tale.

Unfortunately many writers are so keen to exhaust their thesaurus for dramatic adjectives and adverbs that they forget the little details which undermine the canny reader’s confidence in the whole book. If you think otherwise, just take a look at IMDB and read the ‘goofs’ that film-makers are deemed to have made.

Here are some typical examples of the sort of thing people complain about:

        “This song sung by the sailors wasn’t popular until 2 years after when the film was set”

        “The ship’s flag said that it was altering its course to starboard and yet it turned to port”

        “The sun was too low on the horizon for the supposed latitude”

… and so on.

You can call these people whatever you like but the simple fact is that if you incur the wrath of one, they are going to return your book (meaning you lose the sale) and probably rubbish it through a bad review.

Here’s a short checklist. It’s far from exhaustive and only intended to get you thinking along the right lines:



        Longshore drift

        Changing dune profiles



        Sand and shingle sizes

        Rock pools

        Harbour channels





Some obvious mistakes you might make:

Your character is walking along the coast. How do they cross an estuarine river or stream you’ve been describing? How do they get around the harbor mouth you’ve featured? What about passing in front of the cliffs at high tide? Many harbors are created around a river mouth. If your character tries to row directly across, the currents will sweep them out to sea – they need to row in a big curve inside the harbor.

These are just some of the physical details you may need to pick up on. Additionally there are the flora and fauna to consider. What life can be found at what time of year, at what latitude and on what sort of beach?

Even if your story is simply about someone sunbathing, you still need to consider the position of the sun in the sky, the shadows, and how someone would go about getting in the shade.

The best way of avoiding these and similar pitfalls is to draw a timeline of the action and to use a real location so that you can get plenty of pictures from Google Earth. If this is not possible or does not suit your book, then draw a detailed map of the area showing high and low tide lines, rock formations (you may need to think of the geology) and currents.

Yes, this is a lot of work but then it’s part of the job description for a professional author. It’s also a habit that will serve you well and prevent you from winning the ‘Goof of the month’ award.

If you’d like to read a well-written book which is centered around the coast, check out Skolthan by Damaris West. She really knows the land where the book is set and paints such a clear picture of it that you genuinely do see through the eyes of Hilda, the principal character and narrator. The moodiness of the salt flats and the treachery of the paths and channels clutches you and you will find yourself treading gingerly after reading it.

Skolthan is an excellent story and one which uses its setting to the full. It serves as a good study for anyone looking to make the most of a pericoastal backdrop.


1 thought on “Guest Post: Setting your story by the sea by Damaris West

  1. Jess Haight

    Great guest post! I liked finding out about the common mistakes that might be made using the sea as a setting. I love the ocean- and always enjoy reading books that include the sand and salty air. 🙂


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