Love, Charybdis – Setting

It’s research Monday and it’s time to get your NaNoWriMo on!

Tell me all about your NaNo project in the comments. I’ll tell you about mine right here.

It’s set in 1889 or so, in France. It follows the ill-fated romance between a female chemist who has moved to France after an anti-female education protester threw acid in her face; and her adopted brother, who remains a chemist with an English laboratory. There’s a good bit of drama and then he turns into a sea monster. Pretty straightforward, but I rarely (never) write romance, and so I’m very much anticipating November 1st.

Today I’m researching the setting. Just “somewhere in France” apparently isn’t specific enough for some readers, so we’re going to have to dig deeper…


If we’re going to have sea monsters, what we really need is a place on the sea. The story is tentatively titled Love, Charybdis, Charybdis being Homer’s monstrous living whirlpool. If we’re having whirlpools, we want the seas to be rough, or at least changeable. And for romantic walks on the clifftops, we need cliffs.

I spent some time looking at geological maps of the French coast before deciding on the Brittany region. Which is here, and looks like:



The great part about Brittany is that it’s home to La Vieille, the Old Lady. La Vieille is an incredibly iconic lighthouse, being situated on the treacherous stretch of water, the Raz de Sein, and infamous for being hell on Earth. These rough seas may not have whirlpools, but they certainly are dangerous, and with a little poetic licence I may see some swirling tides amongst the distant rocky island off the coast of Brittany.


Work on La Vielle finished in 1887, and its first light was shone. That means in the time of the story, La Vielle won’t be so much an old lady as a young one (although the lighthouse is named for the rock on which it stands). Really, looking at this lighthouse and thinking about the rain smashing down in sheets on it brings back too many memories of Bioshock Infinite.


Of course, I don’t want my characters living in a lighthouse. A small town on the coast is fine. My female lead, who is yet unnamed, can walk out of her house on the hill above the sea and look out towards the rocks, and see the rough tides thrashing the distant islands, and in the evening sometimes a hard rain will lash down on the town and the wind will drive howling between the row houses, tearing flower pots from chains and peeling off sheets of roofing and hammering against windows and throw young trees into fits in the many gardens in town. Hm, yep, it’s somewhere on the mainland coast.

Another trawl through the maps and I found the town of Le Conquet.


Le Conquet is a fishing village, and even today its population is tiny. It has the houses, the streets, the cliffs, everything I pictured in a town. That’s kind of cool, actually. Means I don’t have to map a town; it’s already done. I can fiddle with dialects to make one of the characters, who is from somewhere else in France, sound quite strange to the locals. Le Conquet even has a ferry to Molene, which is one of the populated islands very close to La Vielle.

Abbaye de Saint Mathieu et Phare de Saint Mathieur sur la pointe

Parfait! Ah, and that’s another thing. You and I, we’re going to have to practise our French between now and November. Je parle un petit peu francais, mais rien d’exceptionnel.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to verse myself in the climate of Le Conquet.

Are you NaNoWriMoing? If so, what’s your project? Tell me all about it!


About Anneque D. Machelle

Anneque "Dangerpus" Machelle (rhymes with ranger wuss) is a rebel and a rogue from way out west. Strictly banned from interactions with other human beings, she spends her days amongst molluscs, dogs and lizards, whom she counts as her closest friends.

Posted on October 7, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Oui madamoiselle!

    Sounds awesome. Wasn’t Charybdis placed alongside Scylla in ‘The Odyssey’? Adjust the name to Skyler or a more french equivalent for a character 😉

    Good luck with your research =)

    Was thinking of competing, but may do a parallel non-competing activity in November.

    • Merci bien! You’re dead right about Charybdis being alongside Scylla. Apparently the place they guarded, the sea which rushed between two cliffs, is in real life Sicily. There’s a whirlpool off the west coast of Sicily which is labelled as Charybdis, although it’s not a danger to ships. I’ve been trying to work out a way to work Scylla into the story. Skyler might be just the way to do it… thanks for the suggestion. 😀

      If you’re busy and distracted, I can see how one of the parallel activities would be preferable. 1641 (I think) words per day doesn’t sound too much, it’s just that commitment of averaging it every day. Just do what you can!

  2. This is really really exciting, I’m looking forward to getting lost in this!

    I’m definitely NaNoWriMoing this year. I’ve never done it so it seems a bit daunting, but considering how I’ve handled writing Clarity lately I think I’m up for the challenge 🙂

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