Devin Miller’s story “A Lie in the Sand” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 4 February 2022.
My girlfriend, also a writer, is much more musical than I am, and she has a tendency to get story ideas from songs. This habit seems to be catching, as the seed of this story was Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”. The setting and mood of the story originated in the song, especially drawing on the lines, “Far past the frozen leaves / The haunted, frightened trees / Out to the windy beach… / Circled by the circus sands”. The characters are bards because of the song, as well. This origin resulted in a story that was mostly vibes, and I had to go back while editing to add a lot of the theme and broader context.
I often construct short stories by choosing a question for the characters to ask and answer. In this case, the question was, “How do we get past these creepy sand castles to meet a ship?” I considered also answering the question of why the sand castles are there in the first place, but my favorite speculative fiction tends not to answer that sort of question. I like stories where the characters encounter weird things and just accept that the world is big and strange without trying to explain it all.
Originally, the sand castles were more dangerous than they are in the story’s final form. When I sat down to think about what themes I wanted the story to explore, I came back to a question I’ve been exploring in a lot of my writing since the pandemic. I’m interested in writing about characters who discover that they’ve closed themselves off from the world, distrusting the people around them or assuming that anything weird they encounter is dangerous. I want to see those characters learn to rely on their communities and approach the strange with curiosity, as Haworth ultimately approaches the sand castles.
I pilfered all the names in the story from a list of succulents’ scientific names, with small modifications. Armed with a similar list, you could probably find the origins, though I make no promises that the characters’ personalities suit the plants I got their names from.
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