Thursday, September 29, 2016

How Setting Affects Character

How Setting Affects Character



Often, particular settings evoke certain kinds of characters in the reader’s mind.


What type of character do you imagine living in a desert with tree cacti and armadillos? I’ll bet 100% of you picture a cowboy. He’s probably somewhere in his thirties, good looking though maybe a little scruffy, tall, reserved and polite to women. You might think of John Wayne, or Gary Cooper in High Noon.
I can almost guarantee a gray haired man in a suit carrying a briefcase won’t come to mind when we think of a hot, dry desert somewhere in the American West.

Readers have the same expectations. When we read a book, setting can be a predictor of character. Sometimes publishers give out ‘tip sheets’ so character and setting will ‘fit’ one another.

SETTING PREDESTINES CHARACTER
Setting often forms character in ways you can analyze and use in your stories. The type of topography, industry, incomes and opinions all influence the kind of people who live in a certain area. Even history makes a difference.



The people from Appalachia are a good example. Many of their ancestors emigrated from Northern Ireland and the border between England and Scotland. They led hardscrabble lives in Europe and learned how to survive in harsh lands against political and military forces that were often hostile. In America, many settled in mountainous regions where circumstances were as difficult as they’d been in their original countries. These were strong, hardy people who valued individualism and were skeptical of government in both Europe and America. Their background and history helped them adapt to a new country.

When you begin a story, determine the setting for your character. It’ll help define the kind of character you’ll create.

Readers quickly doubt story people who seem out of tune with their setting.

PROTOTYPES AND STEREOTYPES
Be aware of the type of characters expected in particular genres. For example, Miss Marple fits in with her village setting perfectly.

This is a picture of Lower Slaughter, an English village in the Cotswolds, where my husband’s family originally came from.

Observe real people and then draw up a “setting list” for your character.
If I asked you to describe a typical surgeon you might say he’s gray haired, middle aged and distinguished. You might place him in a large, urban hospital.

Setting list:
Surgeons work in big city hospitals.
They work long hours and like their work.
They tend to live in large suburban houses.
They come from well-educated family backgrounds.
Most love their work.
They drive expensive cars.



He sounds too typical to me. He’s stereotypical and possibly/probably a bit boring for a fiction hero.

Obviously, not all surgeons fit this description.



Some are women.
Some work in clinics in rural communities.
She might live in an inner-city apartment and take the subway to work.
If she resides in the country, she might drive a jeeps or other rugged SUV.
She could be young and still paying for her education through scholarships and loans because her family was poor or middle class.

Who interests you the most? Who seems most credible?

If you can, spend some time following a real surgeon around her working environment.

The point is, take a good look at the setting you want to use and grow characters out of it. A woman surgeon in rural New Mexico can be equally as believable as a male surgeon in New York.

Whether you create your character first and your setting second, or vice versa, remember to make them fit together.

CASTING AGAINST SETTING
If you don’t mind taking a risk, create a character and put him in a setting where he won’t automatically fit in. Do you remember Northern Exposure? Dr. Fleishman, a Jewish doctor from New York City, was transplanted to Alaska. He was definitely cast against his setting. This creates surprise and contrast and can lead to conflict. Since he doesn’t fit his setting, he has continual and comedic problems.

Transplanting a character can work, especially in a comedy. But sometimes it doesn’t. Can you imagine transplanting Scarlett O’Hara from the Old South to the North? Do you think this would be a good or a bad idea?



American missionaries in a foreign land is also a good example of casting against setting. They’d encounter all kinds of culture shock.

USING SETTING TO CHANGE A CHARACTER
A writer can consciously change her setting to effect change within a character. The easiest way is to move the story person to a new setting. If you want the character to change, show her noticing the differences between the old and the new setting and make her react to it. The change can be as simple as changing neighborhoods or as great as moving to a foreign country with differences in topography, climate, language, food, music, social and moral values, culture.


At the beginning of Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara is a beautiful but spoiled southern belle. War changes her. In order to survive and take care of her home and family, she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work. Although it’s hard at first, she accepts her world has changed. She adapts. Eventually she learns she has a head for business. She’s a survivor like Rhett.



Rhett Butler has no problem adjusting to the changes caused by war. He becomes a gunrunner and even thrives and becomes prosperous. No matter what the circumstances (excluding love) he ends up doing well.

Ashley Wilkes wasn’t totally comfortable in the Old South and he certainly didn’t adapt to the new world of Reconstruction. He was brave but he didn’t conquer his situation and use it for the benefit of himself and his family, IMHO. He couldn’t move on with his life like Scarlett and Rhett did.

Think about how you want the character change.

I’ve been watching Indian Summers on Masterpiece. It takes place in 1930s when India was still controlled by the British. You can see how the Brits don’t want to lose their English identity and assimilate into Indian culture. The program shows how both groups of people interact with each other. They love, they rebel and they clash, often because of such differences in culture and power. The setting (an occupied country) and dissimilar peoples create lots of great conflict.

The writer has to decide which kind of change within the present setting will jar the character into changing something in his character. War is a great example of this. Some people rise to the occasion, others fall apart.

To push a story person into changing character, you can change the setting completely or make changes in the present setting. Or you can leave the setting essentially the same but have the character notice differences he never noticed before. Then you show how he changes because of the setting he’s in.

Can you think of any more changes in character that come about because of setting?

Please leave your e-mail if you like a chance to receive a $15.00 gift card from Starbucks.


Cara Lynn James joined Myra Johnson and Sandra Leesmith in writing Love Will Find a Way, a collection of three novellas. In Staging a Romance by Cara Lynn, a home stager Jenna Carlyle meets businessman Nate McKenzie who is trying to sell his family camp in Connecticut. They slowly fall in love while attempting to find a solution to their career issues which threaten to keep the apart.



85 comments :

  1. I'm a HUGE fan of fish out of water stories and am working on one right now. They always have a slight comedic appeal.

    Excellent topic, Cara!!

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  2. Years ago Janet Dailey wrote a book called A Land Called Deseret. Talk about a character who had to change because of setting, her heroine underwent major changes.

    Like Tina, I love these kind of stories.

    Crosbycrockett@icloud.com

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  3. I've read many books where the character changes with the setting. For example: Big city girl meets small town boy (or vise versa). The characters start off with preconceived notions about each other, the setting, the other characters in the story, etc. The longer they stay, the more you can see them start to change thier mind about things. Makes me think of a chameleon, lol! Usually by the end of the book, they want to stay forever and not go back to the big city. I love seeing that transformation!

    There are many more examples, but I think that's one of my favorite. Living in a small town, I can definitely tell when someone is not from here...LOL! Thanks for the great post. I enjoyed your examples and have read several scenarios played out in stories.

    Thank you for the Starbucks gift card chance, I buy their whole beans on occasion to grind and enjoy at home. Pike Place roast and Italian Roast are my favorite!
    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  4. Trixi, I love Pike Place blend, too!

    Cara, this is a great stuff about using the setting to our advantage... and sometimes the hero or heroine's disadvantage!

    I loved the idea behind Hart of Dixie because to put a cardio surgeon in a small Southern town and make her stay there... with no other choices... AWESOME! And then it got too crazy sexy for my tastes, but the premise was marvelous!

    In Home on the Range, Elsa was a fish out of water by design, so certain that the country life and ranching wasn't what she wanted... until she realized too late that trading up doesn't always work out on the "up" side of things.

    I love those kind of stories...

    And right now I'm working on a story with a Midwestern woman unexpectedly tucked into Martha's Vineyard... and it's a mystery and the opening chapter is going out to folks right now, so that's WAY FUN because Martha's Vineyard has such an eclectic mix of old and new... but it does not have one teensy tinsy speck of Midwestern, so it's culture shock for Priscilla Grant, the heroine!

    Which makes the whole thing way fun!!!

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  5. I love it when the setting and characters become one with each other. Even if in the beginning one of the characters may seem out of place, if the author has created a well developed character I feel confident that before the end of the book the character will fit right in. Anyway, to me, settings are extremely important and basically becomes another character within the story.

    I love Starbucks! :)

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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  6. I've been known to buy a book because of the setting, but I also buy books because of an author no matter what the setting. I agree, Scarlet wouldn't have worked in the North.

    Thanks for reminding us how important setting is.

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  7. Great post, Cara! The setting is the first thing I decide when I get ready to start a new story. I like to choose an area that's close to my heart.
    Your example of Scarlett is spot on!

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  8. Interesting post. Thanks for the chance to wins gift card from Starbucks.

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  9. Food for thought, Cara! So true about Scarlett!

    I'm reading Tina's book "Stranded with the Rancher" right now and the spring blizzard in Colorado is an important part of the story. It sets everything up.

    Both my stories are set in Vermont. Vermonters, for the most part,tend to be hardy and outdoorsy. When people come here for the first time, they're moved by the beauty of the landscape. My Facebook feed always features photos of a gorgeous view, a covered bridge, or a scenic drive down a quiet dirt road. No matter how long you've lived here, it's impossible not to be affected by the beauty around you.

    I've touched on that in my manuscript, but will go back and see how I can expand on it.

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  10. Food for thought, Cara! So true about Scarlett!

    I'm reading Tina's book "Stranded with the Rancher" right now and the spring blizzard in Colorado is an important part of the story. It sets everything up.

    Both my stories are set in Vermont. Vermonters, for the most part,tend to be hardy and outdoorsy. When people come here for the first time, they're moved by the beauty of the landscape. My Facebook feed always features photos of a gorgeous view, a covered bridge, or a scenic drive down a quiet dirt road. No matter how long you've lived here, it's impossible not to be affected by the beauty around you.

    I've touched on that in my manuscript, but will go back and see how I can expand on it.

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  11. Tina, I also love how 'fish out of water' stories are often funny. When I first moved to Texas from Connecticut I ordered tea in a restaurant and they gave me iced tea. I didn't know I had to say hot tea. But I learned quickly.

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  12. LOTS of great things to think about here. CARA! How we're a product of our environment--and how a character might grow to be a certain way because of it or because of being taken out of it. And the struggles that might ensue as we try to find where we fit in.

    When we think of settings for our characters...we bring our own background, experiences and viewpoints to it. Even though I've seen the cowboy movies set there, when I see photos of Monument Valley and think of populating it with characters, my mind now goes immediately to a young Navajo man or woman. Torn between two worlds. Maybe they have a grandparent who has long lived in a hogan there tending sheep (as does a relative of a Navajo friend of mine). Maybe during a break from a city job my searching hero/heroine drives a jeep-load of tourists through their homeland. Finds solace in the vastness of their surroundings. Many years ago, I'd have immediately thought of cowboys when I saw that photo...but now my life experience living in Arizona, having Native American friends, and visiting Monument Valley have changed my point of view of that particular setting.

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  13. Terri, if I moved to Utah, I'd certainly have a lot of adapting to do. I found it a little hard adapting to north Florida (very southern) from Vermont since the climate, geography, food and accent are different. I was married to a southerner so I guess that helped. I like moving to new areas.

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  14. CARA -- had to laugh about your Texas tea experience. My Texas side of the family never called iced tea "sweet tea" like people do now. Tea was sweetened ICED tea and that was that.

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  15. Terri, if I moved to Utah, I'd certainly have a lot of adapting to do. I found it a little hard adapting to north Florida (very southern) from Vermont since the climate, geography, food and accent are different. I was married to a southerner so I guess that helped. I like moving to new areas.

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  16. Trixi, I think people who move to a new area can feel really out of place and conspicuous. They try to adapt so they'll fit in. But regional accents are hard to hide!

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  17. Love the idea of using setting to help develop the character ! Thank you!

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  18. Ruthy, when I lived in Vermont I had a friend from the midwest. She was friendly but sometimes found New Englanders are a little more reserved, although not as much as the stereotype. She made a lot of friends but it took longer.

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  19. Cindy, if the character doesn't adapt well by the end of the book, she probably goes home!

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  20. Jackie, sometimes I buy a book because of its setting even if I haven't heard of the author. On the other hand, I often don't give the book a try if I hate the setting.

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  21. Cara, I didn't know you lived in VT!! Where?

    My husband and I lived in Tampa for 4 years. We moved back, in part, because though you can take the girl out of New England, you can't take N.E. out of the girl.

    I grew up in CT (West Haven) and moved to Burlington when I was 16.

    It does take longer to make friends here, but once you've got them, you've got them for life!

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  22. I'll read almost anything set in Ireland. I traveled there in college and fell in love.

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  23. Cara, love this topic! So much to ponder. Love the idea of a fish out of water character!

    I'm packing for the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference. Heading to the hotel this afternoon. Hope to see some Villagers there!!!

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  24. Cara, thanks for this post! You did a great job comparing and contrasting character and setting. I also love fish out of water stories. I had fun writing The Substitute Bride. The heroine had been a pampered city girl who married a farmer with children. Elizabeth didn't know how to cook and knew even less about being a mom. Thankfully she changed as the setting wasn't going to.

    Janet

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  25. HI Cara Great post with wonderful reminders of how we can deepen our characters with the proper setting.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Have a great day.

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  26. Cara, I'm taking your advice about the friend in Vermont because it's still true in a lot of ways... and islanders have a love/hate relationship with tourists and outsiders sometimes, so it's kind of fun to feed into that a little. But since this is a cozy mystery, I'm keeping it cozy!!!

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  27. I agree, Jill. I could never write about a setting that didn't appeal to me. A lot. I like the setting to be another character in the story.

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  28. Have you read Scarlett, which was a sequel to Gone With the Wind published a few years back? Cara's post (and Josee's comment) made me think about this book because Scarlett definitely changes when she leaves Georgia and travels to Ireland. (Although I suspect a lot of the change occurs because Margaret Mitchell did not author this Scarlett). Anyway, Scarlett has to change simply because of where she is and the things that happen to her there. And what about Goldie Hawn's character in the movie Overboard? A rich pampered society type who suddenly became a wife and mother of boys in a working class family. Her amnesia didn't let her remember her past which made her change that much more hilarious in the movie, but point being, Cara's got a good topic to ponder here. Setting does change us and therefore should do the same for our characters. Thanks, Cara.

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  29. Josee, Vermont's setting is so vibrant it's definitely a part of the story! Pictures and postcards convey a gorgeous landscape but it can't show how cold it can get! But I love the 4 seasons and sure miss them living in Florida.

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  30. Josee, small world! I grew up in Hamden, Connecticut very close to West Haven. After my husband retired from the Navy, we moved to Vermont and lived in Shelburne, Hinesburg and Essex Junction. What town do you live in?

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  31. Debby, have a wonderful time at M&M. It's such a great conference.I hope I can go next year.

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  32. Janet, I loved The Substitute Bride! Moving to a really different setting makes a great hook.

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  33. Sandra you should take some of your western characters and move them to New York. That would be fun.

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  34. Cara...it seems I'm always learning, but that's good because my grandfather always said, when you quit learning you're either dead, or should be! I love books where the character is out of place, but it does take a little longer to form a mental picture! Great post. Thank you

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  35. Ruthy, I think the locals in a tourist town always have a few problems when the population swells with strangers. But the tourists' willingness to spend $ is very important to a place that depends upon them. Sometimes it's a love/hate relationship.

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  36. Cindy, I haven't read Scarlett. I'm afraid I can't picture her in any place other than Georgia. For me, she's a really great example of a person who fit right into her world, whether before the War or afterwards.

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  37. All these are excellent points, Cara! Finding exactly the right setting is always an important initial step as I'm planning a new book. As JILL said, I like to chose settings that are special to me in some way, like Hot Springs, Arkansas, for my Till We Meet Again series. Everything I had learned about the area after years of vacationing there only increased my desire to set a story in Hot Springs.

    Then, of course, I had to imagine what kinds of characters would live there, and why. The Army and Navy Hospital naturally had to come into play, so the end of World War I became my timeframe. Nurses, doctors, chaplains, returning soldiers and their families . . . I had my cast of characters!

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  38. CARA and CINDY, I read Scarlett and enjoyed Scarlett and Rhett's happy ending but tired of her time in Ireland, perhaps because I wanted them together more.

    Janet

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  39. I think the setting in Titanic caused character changes. Rose was able to do things differently due to being on the Titanic, but also at the end, she chose to not reconnect with her husband and was able to change her life.

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  40. I can definitely see the importance of setting in period pieces, but I don't normally write period pieces (though in the two 'historicals' I do have, I can definitely see the importance of setting). Another genre that setting is really, really important in is dystopian. For instance, like how Katniss is so bent on surviving. And how my own character is so desperate to protect his people, even at great personal losses.

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  41. Sally, Rose really learned to do what she really wanted to do on the Titanic. Except for the Titanic hitting an iceberg she might never have broken the hold of her mother and her society.

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  42. Boo, I think setting is important in all genres, but maybe some more than others. If an American moved to Thailand or Peru, for example, she'd have a lot of adjusting to do.

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  43. Janet, did the like the book Scarlett?

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  44. Myra, one of the nice things about vacationing is finding towns where you'd like to set a book. I spent a lot of time in Newport, Rhode Island, and since I loved it, I wrote stories about it. I bet Hot Springs is beautiful.

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  45. AHHHHHHH, CARA ... you had me at Gone With the Wind!!!

    SUCH a true post, my friend, and an excellent way to look at characterization!

    You asked: Transplanting a character can work, especially in a comedy. But sometimes it doesn’t. Can you imagine transplanting Scarlett O’Hara from the Old South to the North? Do you think this would be a good or a bad idea?

    Weird as it sounds, I actually can imagine Scarlett in the North, and as the spoiled rich Southern Belle that is STILL despised by her peers. Why? Her character was so large and dominant, in my opinion, that you could put her just about anywhere and make her work because frankly, my dear, I don't think she'd give a darn WHERE you put her -- she'd still be Scarlett. :)

    CINDY SAID: Have you read Scarlett, which was a sequel to Gone With the Wind published a few years back? Cara's post (and Josee's comment) made me think about this book because Scarlett definitely changes when she leaves Georgia and travels to Ireland. (Although I suspect a lot of the change occurs because Margaret Mitchell did not author this Scarlett). Anyway, Scarlett has to change simply because of where she is and the things that happen to her there."

    I not only read Scarlett three times (well, I read Scarlett, then reread GWTW, then reread Scarlett two more times ... ;)), but when the movie came on TV, Keith had STRICT orders to keep the kids upstairs while I sat two feet from the TV in an recliner I pushed right in front of it, eyes glued to the screen.

    And Cindy and Cara are right -- putting Scarlett in Ireland definitely changed her a lot, and the setting was partially responsible in my view, along with all the growth Scarlett was forced to undergo.

    And, Janet, I have to admit -- I tired of Ireland in the movie, too, and for me, that's saying something!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  46. CARA LYNN, thank you for this interesting post! As a reader, I enjoy many different types of settings.

    psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

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  47. Julie, I think you could transplant Scarlett to the North and she probably wouldn't change much. She certainly wouldn't turn into a New Englander. So maybe the particular setting makes a difference. If it's too like the original, then she wouldn't change. She didn't change when she went to New Orleans and maybe she wouldn't change if she went to a Texas city, depending upon how southern and familiar it was it her.

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  48. Caryl, I like most settings but there are a few I definitely don't like. Or maybe it's just the unfamiliar culture although sometimes I find the landscape really unappealing.

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  49. Wow, Cara! Small world, indeed! I attended Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden! Loved my time there...

    I currently live in St Albans but have lived in Shelburne, South Burlington and Williston.

    It does get very cold! My boys play hockey so it keep us busy during the worst of it. I'm thankful we go visit my parents in FL to escape it for a few days.

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  50. This brought to mind a scene from (I believe) The Winds of War.
    The lead character had gone to see soldiers on the Russian Front while Germany was invading.

    And his comment about those soldiers. The harsh land and the way the Russians had dug in like they were part of the land, almost burrowing animals completely at home in the dirt and cold...he said looking at them he knew they could never be defeated. Here they were so at home in a landscape that would kill anyone who didn't know the land and the climate.
    No one could get to them all, stop them all, back them up. No one could defeat them.

    It left an impression with me about people who were USED to the land. In my westerns the cowboys who've lived WITH the land all these years and the newcomers who try and tame the land rather than respect it and accept it as it is...very different experiences for those two different ways of living.

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  51. For some reason I enjoy reading about entitled socialites set in Regency England, but don't enjoy when they are in an American setting such as New York. I wonder why that is???

    Please throw my name in the giveaway!

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  52. A change of location certainly does cause change in a person's character. I've moved cross country several times. It usually takes me quite a while before I adapt to the change. When I went home to Ohio from Arizona, many of my family members told me I had changed. Not sure if they meant in a good way or bad way, but I did realize that I was a different person due to the cultural differences in the two states.

    Never thought too much about what an important part setting plays in a novel, but you can be sure that I'll be paying more attention to it now. Thanks for a great post, Cara.

    Jan (Would love a shot at that Starbucks card - yackyjan@cox.net)

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  53. Very cool post about setting, Cara. I hadn't really considered how the setting affects who your characters are or will become. Great food for thought as I look over my WIPs and mull future characters running amuck in my brain.

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  54. CARA, I liked Scarlett but preferred GWTW.

    JULIE, I haven't seen the movie of the sequel. Sounds like I should.

    Janet

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  55. p.s. the East Coast is certainly different from out West. As a transplanted Colorado kid in Virginia, I still get a bit flustered clash with an East Coast mindset of others.

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  56. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  57. Thanks, Cara, for writing a great post. You really got me thinking.

    Setting is so important to show the character's thoughts, hesitations, and feelings of inadequacies. Your comment on Texas tea brings up how people who are used to a situation (how tea is expected to be served) don't think about describing it to those who are new. The way setting is used as a tool to either coddle or condemn gives the character opportunity to be seen in a different light. That setting/character interaction can be used to show humor or horror.

    Thanks again for this thought-provoking and entertaining post.

    Laura Domino

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  58. Josee, I I GRADUATED FROM SACRED HEART ACADEMY, TOO! What a very, very small world. I graduated a long time ago, but I was there in June for my 50th reunion and it looks a little different now than it did in 1966. Much bigger with the new edition which might've been built 45 or more yrs. ago for all I know. It's still so beautiful.

    You're lucky you're still in Vermont.

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  59. Another way that a setting can change a character is if the same setting they have always lived in is slowly changing and morphing into something else because of current conditions such as war, pestilence, or plague. The character would then have to change some to in order to survive in this changed setting, but they probably wouldn't have to change as much as they would if they moved to a different place all together. And at first the change wouldn't be quite as visible. It would be a gradual thing.

    Please enter my name for the drawing my email is nicky(dot)chapelway(at)gmail(dot)com

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  60. Mary, The Winds of War was one of my favorite books. The movie— not so much. The Russians are a perfect example of fitting into the land. I imagine the soldiers from Viet Nam were the same way. Americans weren't used to fighting in rice patties and jungle. They probably weren't used to the heat and humidity either.

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  61. That's interesting, Heidi. Julian Fellowes who wrote Downton Abbey is now involved in a series about New York millionaires in the 1880s. I know I'll like it! Of course we're lacking a nobility so it'll be different.

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  62. Hi, Jan! I've lived in several New England states, Texas, California, Virginia and now Florida. I've changed in some ways including the way I speak. I've lost my Connecticut accent! I never knew I had any kind of accent at all until I moved away and then returned. My friends sounded more regional than I remembered. I also like a greater variety of foods than I used to.

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  63. Hi, Deb! I've also noticed that different regions of the country have very different mindsets. Sometimes it's like going to a different and alien planet.

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  64. You're right, Laura. I have a southern friend who refers to skiing and snow skiing. As a northerner, I say water skiing and skiing. We already know skiing takes place on the snow!

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  65. Nicky, that's an interesting observation. But when large groups of people either migrate or capture a country, it'll change fast and the natives won't feel like they're in the same country they grew up in.

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  66. When I read that you were from Hamden, I thought, "I bet she went to SHA."

    I haven't been back in years but I've stayed in touch with some nuns, thanks to Facebook.

    One day, when we meet in person, we'll compare notes!

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  67. What a great topic. Like many here, I love a fish out of water story.

    I'm a big city girl living in a rural community and the transition was hard. Especially things like being friendly to strangers. People think you're trying to ask for money or sell you something if you're nice. In rural communities, it's rude not to be friendly to strangers.

    When I first moved from Colorado to Nebraska, I was baffled by the farmer wave. I thought my husband was super popular when folks kept waving to us as we drove by. Turns out it's a courtesy wave. Who knew? I'm still working on it. :)

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  68. Cara, what an enlightening post! You made me think deeper than I have before on characters interacting with setting. Thanks for all this great info to try in my stories!

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  69. Hi Cara:

    I really enjoyed your post as I'm a big believer in using the power of setting. I also believe that all the strong points you made about using setting can also be applied to a character's interior landscape (how a character views the world).

    BTW: I had to laugh about who I would imagine in the landscape of your desert photo. I didn't see cowboys at all. (What would the cows eat? Would the cowboys sing 'Home on the Desert'?) I visualized a 55 year old, Gabby Hayes-type, prospector. He has a mule and a big canteen. He's a solo guy who talks to his mule, named Sadie, and spouts philosophy like Will Rogers.

    Also, while I don't know much about her, I'd have no trouble 'seeing' Scarlett trying to save a family ranch in New Mexico during the Lincoln county range wars. Rhett might even be Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the New York City boy, could represent the North. : )

    Vince

    P.S.
    Please place me in the drawing for Starbucks! It would make me a hero at home! (At least for a day.)

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  70. No time to read comments (whimper) but had to tell you what a delightful post this is, Cara!

    The books I enjoy the most are the ones where the character and setting are so interwoven there's no separating them. I also enjoy stories where someone arrives in a new setting because I get to see the setting through the newcomer's eyes. Sometimes that situation can be so comedic I laugh out loud. And I can so identify with making mistakes in other places. I never felt as foreign as when I was in England ... even though we all, in theory, speak English :-)

    As to setting changing a character, I immediately think of natural disasters. You can find out someone's true mettle after destruction.

    Nancy C

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  71. JANET, YES!! You need to see the sequel movie, although Alexandra Ripley (the author of Scarlett) is obviously NO Margaret Mitchell. ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  72. Julie, it's too bad Margaret Mitchell ever wrote her own sequel to GWTW.

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  73. Nancy, I agree natural disasters bring out the best or the worst in people. Some rise to the occasion, others falter and sometimes fall apart.

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  74. Hi, Vince! I'm old enough to remember Gabby Hayes quite well. But he goes way back to the 1950s. I used to love westerns on TV. Too bad TV moved on.

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  75. Missy, of course I picture your settings as southern. Where else would you like to write about it that might be a fun choice?

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  76. Cara, what an inspiring post. I guess I take for granted that my settings tend toward the mountains and western Colorado. Write what you know, right?

    When you mentioned the surgeon, I immediately thought of Gray's Anatomy. Talk about hopeful surgeons from all walks of life. And, how much the character's backstory and history eventually led to their success or failure. It certainly makes the "how bad do you want it" mantra ring true.

    Thanks for giving me something to think deeply about!

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  77. Cara, I love writing about small towns in the south. But I think it would be really fun to write an historical--maybe set in Scotland. Or, if I dared, it would be fun to do Regency England.

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  78. Vince, I've gotta love a Starbucks-toting hero! :)

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  79. Missy, I've never tried writing an historical set in a location I didn't know anything about. But the research would be lots of fun. Naturally, that would justify a trip!

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  80. Hi, Audra! There's a lot to be said for writing what you know. But it might be more fun and a real challenge to write about a place you've never been before. So far, I'm not up to the challenge.

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  81. Thank you, CARA! This was such an interesting post. In my book I have some "city girl goes to the country" scenes, and since the farm/ranch life is waaay outside my comfort zone I was able to use some of my own experiences and thoughts for the character. I live in a small (itty bitty)rural town and a lot of my family and friends are ranchers or farmers. I enjoy visiting them, but I cannot truly relax until I'm outta there :-) Going to try some of your suggestions for my WIPs. Thanks again.

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  82. Cara,
    Very helpful post with great examples.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  83. Setting can change the soul of an individual. Or rather help them find who they truly are. A character placed in an enviroment which is slower moving often discovers things about themselves. Watching the character evolve into a better person is not only entertainig but can challenge the reader to reconsider there own life choices. Great post.

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  84. Hi Cara Lynn. I found this lesson full of reminders and ideas. In my current WIP, my heroine is relocated into an uncomfortable setting. She's way out of place, which does create problems and some fun situations as well, especially involving "locals". Thanks for the great ideas!

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  85. Well done Cara Lynn!

    Please enter me in the drawing.

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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