My church had a wonderful family camp out this past weekend and the fall setting looked much like the photo above. Brown and golden leaves are just beginning to drift off the trees and settle into a crunchy mass on the earthen floor. Every breeze brings a shower of more color swirling to the ground. It is a lovely time of year and a welcome setting for our church family to revisit each other.
Back in our traditional church setting we seldom have time to do more than meet-and-greet and quickly rush off to teach Sunday school, perform in the puppet skits, or sing with the praise team. We feel it when we are missing that deep inner connection that binds us together. That is when we know it is time for a change of scenery. So we headed for a local park in the area.
Thrusting us into a new setting creates new layers of friendships. Because of the setting we were forced to slow down, relax, rely on each other and share. We shared our band aids, our fishing poles, firewood, air pumps, and our food.
One member brought barbecued brisket, sausage, chicken and ribs for a tasty lunch for all of us. What a generous, unexpected treat. After inviting him, to then, share our dinner I panicked when I discovered I had left the veggies at home. Not to worry my best friend offered to pool her meal of fish and veggies with ours and together we fed 4 families. It reminds me of another meager fish meal that fed so many. . .
I learned about the romantic back stories, hilarious honeymoons, and current concerns of these fascinating people I have been worshipping with for years. Spirited games of volleyball brought on more laughter than points. Wandering toddlers always had at least 3 sets of eyes upon them. And although none of the fishermen and women brought home any catfish they brought home a closer understanding of each other. Fishing poles were even laid on the ground in favor of more in-depth conversations by the shoreline.
Something good was going on here. Growth!
It was with great reluctance each of us packed our camping gear and made the transition back to reality. But we went away from this setting better than when we came.
For the first time, I began to realize the power of setting upon us, upon our characters. Donald Maass in his "Breakout" book describes a good setting as having an "impact on the characters". The setting should have some kind of psychological effect upon them. Setting is also listed as one of the key elements to spice up a plot in Bell's, "Plot and Structure."
Questions: Is your setting having any impact on your characters? Does it cause them to act in unexpected ways? Are you using setting to enrich your plot? Let me know.