How setting affects your characters

I have got to get back on schedule. Went home last night with every intention of writing a blog post, until the kittehs decided they both wanted to snuggle with me. So I relaxed with the purr-boxes and watched television with the hubby. I’d written earlier in the day, so it was all good. And I probably needed the mental break from the computer screen after my day at work.

Anyway, this morning I sat browsing through my copy of Romance Writers Report and saw something about how setting can affect your characters. Getting ready for work, I started thinking about just how much of an impact setting can have on not only our characters but on us.

I act differently around people I’ve known since high school and people I just meet. I also act differently around other writers I’ve met and extended family members. And our characters would too. Ever been to a funeral where the person being eulogized sounded nothing like the person you knew? We all show a different facet of ourselves depending on the situation.

Of course, once the idea was planted, it took off. What’s the story with the person who shows up for an interview in torn and wrinkled clothes? Do they just not care or have they been on hard times so long that these are their best clothes? Does the person who sings and prays the loudest in church have a sinful secret they are hoping for atonement from or do they just love whatever deity they’re worshiping?  How about that lady in the store with the screaming child? Is she simply being a lazy parent or has her husband recently passed and no matter what she does, the child will not settle, but she has to go on with life?

I’ve never been a highly analytical sort, but I find myself analyzing my writing. I’ve noticed I’m doing this more subconsciously when I write. While it’s a start, it’s not enough; I need to do this a lot more and in more depth, I admit. But it’s something I’m learning as I go.  And sometimes having to force myself to do. I love to read, but I am not the type to dissect a book down to the word, trying to figure out what exactly the author meant when they made the sofa green instead of brown. Or vice versa. To me, that much detail isn’t important. Unless the green sofa is made of grass, then yeah, it has a bigger impact on the story.

To those who love analyzing books down to that level, I applaud your tenacity and desire to do so. And sometimes it is interesting to see what you come up with. For me, knowing exactly what the author intended takes away from my experience with the book. I’ve digressed, way off track.

The setting can affect how our characters not only react to situations, but to different people they encounter which gives us as writers a multitude of opportunities to show our characters’ character. We can say our villain is a mean, ugly person but it wouldn’t make you hate him or her. But if I showed him walking past a dog on the sidewalk who looks up, hoping for a little compassion and is instead kicked out of the path with the tip of a steel-toed shoe, that will evoke the feeling more than me saying “He’s mean!” Or at least I hope it would!

I hope  my meandering mind makes sense. I’m going to read the article in depth this weekend as I gear up for edits.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Melanie

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7 thoughts on “How setting affects your characters

  1. Love this Melanie. I’m like you and don’t analyze as I read. I’ve tried but it takes away the enjoyment factor. It’s definitely something to be thinking about while writing but perhaps more so during edits.

  2. That’s a great observation. So much impacts how our characters see the world and what items will jump out at them. And it’s different with every person in real life so it’ll be different for every character as well.

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