Characters in Settings


In my last post, I talked about car dealerships and the importance of setting. Today, more on how characters can use settings…or rather, how you can use settings with your characters.

So, in swanky, new dealership (Dealership 1), my salesman was older than the norm. Instead of a pressed button-down shirt and expensive tie, he wore the company polo. He also used WAY too much fake tanner and hair bleach. I know it’s summer, but I still don’t believe that he spent enough time in the sun to get frosted tips…especially at 50+. And no one believes that Oompa Loompa skin-tone is real.

I didn’t let him do much talking. I knew what I wanted to look at and did my best to avoid him…stuck my husband with him as I checked out the driver’s seats. Sorry, hon.

When we did talk, he asked what I was looking for, what my concerns were…and then dismissed them but telling me there really was no choice.

In the worn down dealership (Dealership 2), the salesmen all wore shirts that were a little too big. My salesman there was taller than everyone else by several heads and wore his shirts just as baggy as his co-workers. He tripped over himself to not be a bother. I was sitting in his office, legs crossed with one leg hanging across the entry. When he needed to get by, I moved and he was profuse in my need not to do that….even though I was blocking the entire way. He would go to get paperwork and mumble to himself things like “I hope I don’t forget…oh silly me.”

Even though I felt like chum in a shark tank when I walked onto both lots, I initially cut Dealership 1 guy a little more slack. He was older than his co-workers…gotta keep up, sink or swim. I can understand the pressure to look young. I liked the casual polo over the super slick shirt and tie. He disarmed me because he was in contrast to his surroundings. Until he opened his mouth and sounded as slick as the other guys looked.

Dealership 2 guy came across as completely bumbling. The guy you do work for because you know he’ll just mess it up and you’ll have to do it anyway. The guy you feel bad bargaining with because it’d be like taking candy from a baby. He blended into his surroundings, playing off of them well. Although, much like the first salesman giving himself away by talking, when I talked to the second salesman off script, his mask slipped a couple of times and I could see the sharpness behind it.

How do your characters interact with their environment? Do they stand out on purpose or are they chameleons? How does that change how other characters see them?

I hadn’t thought of this consciously when writing Julia, but I do want to keep an eye out for it during the round of revisions.


3 thoughts on “Characters in Settings

  1. Wow, this is fascinating! Love your portrayal of the two salesmen and how you put them in the context of the setting. I’m so curious to know more about them now. You did a great job drawing me in. Awesome food for thought. Thanks!

    • bethfinke

      Yes, you are leaving your blog readers at the edge (or would that be edges?) of our seats. Which dealership got the big sale?

  2. Oh no! I’ve written myself into a corner! I don’t have enough for a grand finale post. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the past two posts, though.

    Dealership 2 got my business. In the end, it didn’t come down to characters or setting.

    I was shopping for a Prius, which are scarce right now. Dealership 1 had new cars, but I didn’t like the newly designed interior. Dealership 2 had a used that met my very precise specs…it’s like I got my old car back except it’s silver!

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