Cape Cod Scenes & Settings

It always helps to live or work in your novel’s setting. While walking through town on my way to work, every once in a while I try to capture a sentence from the air. Here are a few scenes from my new novel, Ocean Echoes:

Woods Hole marina

This is the small pond and marina near the main character’s workplace. Ellen’s falling apart houseboat is out there somewhere.

Woods Hole research vessel

The picture above is of a typical research vessel like the one that brings the characters to remote islands in the South Pacific. The vessel used in the book was older and a bit rustier. Here’s the scene when it arrives in port a few days before the research cruise:

“The ship docked behind Ellen’s work building and dwarfed it entirely, even though the building had often swallowed her whole. The Eagle resembled a small offshore city complete with smokestacks, flashing lights, and towers reaching into the sky. Crew members scurried around on deck like puppets on an oversized stage. The Eagle also hummed. Ellen could hear the metallic humming from inside her office, a constant whirring reminder that she’d better be ready soon.”


Above is a stone building where candles were made from whales in the 1800s.  Whenever a whale beached on the shore back then, people would run down there with knives and buckets to take the whale’s oil and whatever else they could use. Now we try to save any beached whales. Maybe some things have progressed at least a little.

Woods Hole whale sculpture

This sculpture is across the street from the stone building. Here’s how it’s described in Ocean Echoes:

“They walked out toward a park bordering the ocean where a sculpture of a whale’s fluke dove into rippling grass. Children hung from the fluke and used it as a slide. Paul smiled and watched as if they could be his own kids. Ellen looked out toward the waves.”

So now I can wander through my novel any time (or whenever I’m not working away in the building near these scenes).

Do you wander through your novels or visit places you’ve read about?

45 thoughts on “Cape Cod Scenes & Settings

  1. These are fantastic photographs, Sheila. When I have the opportunity to read Ocean Echoes, I’ll have to come back to this post. Yes, I do enjoy visiting areas that I’ve read about.

    • That’s one of the great things about reading – you can picture whatever you want. 🙂 The vessel in the book was different though – it was bigger, older, and rustier. This is a newer, more streamlined version.

  2. These pics were fun to see given I’ve already read your wonderful book. Then again, your description was so good, it feels like I’ve already seen them!

  3. So fun to see the places and objects that inspired your beautiful words, Sheila. It makes me want to visit Cape Cod too. Have all the autumn leaves fallen already? We are in the last weeks of autumn here- still some gorgeous trees!

    • Come on down and I’ll give you a tour! The leaves turn a little later here – we’re usually a bit behind on everything – so they’re still out and shining. Hope you have a fun weekend!

  4. You can always tell when authors write about places they know well in their novels. There’s an authenticity in the little details that is missing otherwise. And somehow I find photographs often let me see familiar objects through the eyes of others – characters or readers. The research vessel is large, like the enormous cruise ships that nowadays dwarf the harbours and towns they visit, as if a whole new area had erupted from the sea complete with buildings.

    • That’s a great description of the research vessel – it does seem as if they loom over the town every once in a while. I don’t usually do this, but I’m guessing it would help to look at photos when writing descriptions of places – maybe next time! 🙂

  5. I love seeing these pictures, Sheila. I haven’t traveled internationally so sometimes I use google earth to set my scenes. I’m really looking forward to reading Ocean Echoes xxxx

    • Thanks Dianne! That’s a great idea to use google earth for scenes – I guess even if we know a few places pretty well, it’s much more exciting when the characters travel around and go to different places. That’s one of the reasons I loved The Everything Theory!

  6. This is so neat, since I’m about halfway through your book. I am really enjoying it, love…well done! It’s been a great escape, especially since coming home from Venice last night and being back in this fall weather FAR away from the echoes of the ocean. 😉

    I haven’t visited too many real life places from novels, but I definitely have with films. I was beyond giddy to see many of the places from Roman Holiday in the flesh.

    • Yay – I’m glad you’re enjoying the book so far! That’s great that you were able to go to Venice again – I hope you danced up a mambo gelato storm! I loved Roman Holiday so I know what you mean about seeing those places for real. I still haven’t made it to that mouth statue, but that’s one of a million reasons to go back!

  7. Gorgeous photos. I love visiting places I’ve read about and actually have just done so. It does make a difference when the author obviously knows and loves the place they write about.

    • Thank you – I’m glad you like the photos! I haven’t done it often, but it is fun whenever reading and traveling can go together like that. I recently traveled around the southwestern US while reading a Barbara Kingsolver book and that was great because her descriptions are so perfect.

  8. Great original post, Sheila – the photos are beautiful, so vibrant and great accompaniment to your novel excerpts! Although I haven’t consciously walked where my book takes place, a fictional place, I have in my mind traversed areas similar to the location and have those images in my head – would make it difficult to post though!😀😀

    • Thank you – it was a bright day, which is kind of funny because it’s usually much grayer around here. I guess it is usually difficult to travel through fictional places unless you’re reading! It’s fun when those places get stuck in your head.

  9. I wonder what the experience of reading the book in those places would bring to the experience! Wandering through a novel is a fantastic phrase to describe it.

    • Hahah – you’ll have to visit and try it sometime! Thank you – it’s always fun to wander through words or the outdoors whenever possible. 🙂

  10. I love the pictures, and I love what you’ve written to capture setting. I can’t wait to read your book, but I’ll admit, I’m going to wait for the “real” book rather than get the e-book, as I prefer reading that way. Once they’re for sale, be sure to announce it OK?

    • Thanks Kate! I’ll let you know. I’m hoping it’ll only be a few more weeks. I’m glad you liked the pictures – I know you’ve been around here before so you can probably picture it all already. 🙂

  11. Lovely images and I love that your book’s setting is Cape Cod. I’m in the middle of another book at the moment but excited to begin your story soon.

    • Thanks Susan! I hope you’ll enjoy your virtual Cape Cod trip. Let me know whenever you’re around here for real and I’ll take you out to “The Pirate”! Thank you so much for showing how much beauty there is in the world with your photos.

  12. What a great idea and way to introduce readers to your book – SHOW them the scenes where it takes place. You have definitely caught my attention, and I look forward to reading Ocean Echoes. My book THE RIGHT WRONG MAN takes place in Cambridge and Concord’s Great Meadow – I better get out there and take some photos, pronto! 🙂

    • Good idea – those would be great places to take pictures of, and I can already picture them! I’ll have to read your book soon too. I used to live around Boston and still love that area. I biked down to Concord on Patriot’s Day once and went back in time with the reenactments there – that was a lot of fun!

    • Thanks Kath! I love how your artwork shows the beauty of your surroundings, down to every bird and detail. These days we need to keep celebrating that kind of beauty wherever it can be found.

  13. I am always fascinated by author’s process. Thank you for showing us how you link your writing to eating. The geography of my own memoir, a WIP, ping pong between two childhood homes, my own and my grandmother’s. One has been sold; the other will follow suit next year. Like you, photos help spark graphic detail and mood.

    And thank you bunches for following my blog this week, Sheila. I’m so glad Jill’s blog brought us together.

    Again, gracias!

    • I’m glad we found each other too! I recently looked up my childhood home through Google because a friend looked hers up and found out it had become a parking lot. Mine’s still there for now (in Michigan), but of course it’s much smaller than I remember. 🙂

    • Thank you! It’s nice to be near the ocean, even if I don’t visit it as often as I should. The photos were taken on a really bright day – usually it’s more gray and foggy around here but even that has a beauty to it. I hope you’re enjoying all the beauty in Ireland. Happy Holidays!

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