Personality of Setting

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We’ve had a very wet summer and the most rain on record for a single downpour. Exciting times.

During the record-breaking rain, the underground garage where I park was flooded. My poor car sat in over-the-bumper high water for several hours, totaling it. I just paid it off and had to go search for a new car. Like I said, exciting times.

Anyway, I went to two different car dealerships looking for a new-to-me car. Each dealership had a distinct personality to it.

Dealership 1 was new, built within the last year. The lot was sprawling, filled with shiny cars under blinding lights. The showroom was spacious with cathedral ceilings and floor to ceiling windows. The salesmen standing out front were mostly youngish, in crisp shirts and expensive looking ties.

Dealership 2 had been there for years. The lot was small with skinny aisle and tight turns. The show room was tiny. There was barely enough room for the cars and the salesmen’s offices. And the offices were beat-up: frayed carpet and tape makes on the desk drawers. The salesmen were older and their shirts were baggy.

How do you feel about those two places? Where would you want to buy a car?

The space, the lighting and cleanliness of Dealership 1 put me at ease. The fact that Dealership 2 was run down made me wonder about the cars and the salesmen themselves…did they know what they were doing?

Presentation matters…and that goes for setting, too. Walking into each dealership, I had an instant impression that could work for or against the characters I meet. Do you want you characters to be supported by their setting or have to work hard against it prove themselves trustworthy?

I don’t think there’s a blanket right answer to that question. It depends on your story. But taking a cue from the settings around us everyday can strengthen the settings we create. The little details like the fraying carpet and blinding lights really set the mood for me…something I want to make sure that I include in my own settings.

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5 thoughts on “Personality of Setting

  1. Great examples! Setting is definitely one of my weaknesses but you make a great point about how it can set the mood and reflect on the characters. Thanks for the great post! 🙂

  2. bethfinke

    No question. I would for *sure* buy my car at the second place, the one with the baggy-shirted salespeople. I’d be suspicious that the first place would charge more, you know, so that the salesmen could afford those fancy ties!

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