The Short Version:
I’m pretty sure that I’m going to change the setting of my Untitled Werewolf Novel from California to Alaska.
The Long Version:
I love Alaska. I love the mountains and the moose and the crisp weather and the trails and so many things about Alaska. My parents were both born there before it was even a state and I still have family ties there.
Driving home, I was thinking about the Alaska that I love and wondering at the fact there are so few books set in Alaska. I can think of two off the top of my head: Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, in which a boy is trapped in the Alaskan wilderness for months and must survive, and The Curious Eat Themselves, by John Straley (isn’t that just about the best title ever), a mystery novel surrounding the oil companies. (I’m sure there are more, but I would have to do an internet search to find them.)
Most books about Alaska fall into the Hatchet category, as in: gee, look at how beautiful and wild and empty and dangerous Alaska is, looks at the pretty mountains, the roaring brown bears, the lumbering moose, and there’s like no one there! And yes, of course, there is a lot of forest and wildlife in Alaska and it is certainly achingly beautiful. (This romantic notion of Alaska in books and movies, I’m sure contributes the question I still get of whether or not I lived in an igloo.)
However there are people there and most of them are quite normal, just trying to live ordinary lives, concerned about bills and getting super on the table and boring normal things. It’s just that shopping at the local supermarket might be interrupted my by a bull moose meandering through the parking lot.
There should be more books like The Curious Eat Themselves, I thought to myself, more books obvious set in and influenced by Alaska, but focused on the more mundane aspects of people actually living there. Even better, why not a book with supernatural elements.
Hey! I thought, why don’t I write a fantasy novel set in Alaska. I could do that… which ultimately brought me to thinking about switching the location of my werewolf novel.
Doing so would require a rather large shift in how I’ve been thinking about the novel thus far, so I’m not fully committed to the idea yet. It would change the entire basis for how the characters interact with each other as well as their environment. They simply would not behave in the exact same way as they always have.
Making the switch would resolve some problems and create others. For example, I would not have Claire move to Alaska, she would have grown up there, eliminating the getting-to-know-you aspect from the plot. Also, it’s plausible that a werewolf could get away with living in Alaska, because the people are used to seeing large animals around. But, this would also mean that I will not be able to have the running off to San Francisco scenes that I was looking forward to writing, and there is not equivalent Big City in Alaska. Fortunately, I’m not very far into the writing of the novel (just the first chapter), so making the change would not require me to drastically rewrite much.
I’m pretty sure I will be making the switch up. Here’s why: I’m super excited about it. I mean, I’m hair-is-standing-up-on-my-arms happy about it. So it should be obvious that I need to do it (I’m not really clear on what my hesitation is). All I know is that I’m loving this novel more than ever.
Have you ever made a drastic setting change to something you were writing? How did you decide to make the switch and how did it change how you thought about the novel/story?