A setting can sometimes make or break a story, or an author trying to create a story. Settings can be a silent background member, adding ambiance and subtle support. Or settings can be larger than life, a character with their own agenda.
In A Cruise Fling, my next romcom, the cruise ship setting is very much a part of the lively cast of characters.
I’ve been on many cruises myself, so it was a comfortable shoe to slip on. I used my own memories and experiences to help fuel the plot. A cruise setting means there will be drinks and dancing, pool side sunbathing, entertainment, and lots of food! It made it easy to put my characters in different situations, to give them a reason to be out and about together. And it gave me a chance to have fun with them!
Beyond life onboard, there are different locations to visit. I’ve mostly cruised to the Caribbean, so that was my first choice for location. I spent a lot of time studying different itineraries, choosing which ones had potential to work for me. I needed to think about where the cruise started from, how many at sea vs island days, where would cell phone use be easy or limited? These factors helped fuel my plot, and above all else, I wanted the itinerary to be plausible.
Of course, I started writing this years ago, and not only do destinations change, but national disasters have hit some Caribbean Islands hard. So while I did my best to follow a path that one could hop onto tomorrow, there might be some parts that don’t quite line up.
Another great thing about choosing a vacation setting for a story, it means the clock is ticking from the start. There is not only a limited time to get the main characters together, but they each will view the end of the vacation as the “end.” We all pick up a romance book for the HEA, or HFN, but it’s still fun to see how the characters overcome that “end” hurdle!
I loved giving the ship it’s characteristics and letting it glide the story along. A ship means brightness and fun and lively activity. There is always something to do, giving many potential destinations for the characters. Some cruise ships have mini golf and rock climbing on board!
There are also the simple things: allowing characters to stay in bed for lazy mornings. Or, stuck in an inside cabin means it can be pitch black at any time of day! I’ve personally been in those tiny cabins, all the way up to suites. Hands down, I’ll take a suite if I can get one! Water views, a personal balcony? Sign me (and my heroine) up!
A vacation can also be a chance to recharge, and that goes double for characters. They can be escaping something, as Mac is, or visiting friends, like Cole. Whatever the reason, this setting becomes a driving force for the the story, and lots of fun to play with!
When I was younger, I often thought about working on a cruise ship. I love the activities, like trivia or BINGO, so it inspired me to have one of the supporting characters working on board. I got to live out a bit of my younger fantasy, along with contemplating the reality of working for six months with very little breaks in a customer service type of industry!
Beyond how a cruise ship works for a setting, it can also serve as a mini mental getaway for the reader…and writer! While stuck in a cold New England winter, busy with a day job and a kid, writing this provided a break from it all. A chance to think warm thoughts and endless days to simply relax and do nothing. I think this is a dream many of us have!
I know I was sad to have my characters leave the ship and return home to their realities. But I think that’s also part of the vacation experience. A vacation can change you, whether by refueling or finding love/friendship. There’s that jarring moment when the fun ends, and even though your equilibrium is rocking with the boat, you most definitely are not on one as you wheel luggage through customs.
The memories last and are ready to be reached for on cold, lonely nights. So if a vacation is something you desperately need, I invite you to join in on Mac and Cole’s cruise. I assure you, they won’t mind.