Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Lucky me! I got to go camping again!

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.


  1. Isn't this a true experience for all of our relationships? The time factor is what enriches them ... sitting together, visiting, sacrificing for one another. Good stuff.

    and, in my novel on submission, atmosphere and setting is a large portion of the story. it is set in the south, 1957, preacher's daughter, murder. it took a lot of reserach but was very fun to write.

  2. I have such fond memories of youth camp outs, it makes me wonder why I refuse to camp now. I love old cottages, but sleeping on the ground these days doesn't appeal to me at all.

    Settings do indeed work their way into my mss. Can't help it, I need to share!

  3. Sounds like you had a wonderful weekend! I still can't believe anyone, anywhere is actually camping this time of year! But what a blessing to have a church family that you can share so richly with!

  4. How fun you got to go camping with members of your church. What a great time for fellowship and relaxation.

    My current setting often irritates my main character and it's fun to write her reactions.

  5. You forgot to mention that your preacher and his wife showed up with no food in hand and had to be fed too!!! lol

    Setting and description is where I am sadly lacking. I seriously need to beef up the settings in some of my scenes! Great post, girl!

  6. Setting is hard for me. It is an area that does not flow naturally.

    I wonder if that has something to do with not being an outdoors person?

    Glad you had an enriching time with friends and family.

  7. What a cool thing to do!

    I try to use setting in my manuscripts, but I'm not sure I'm always successful! LOL

  8. Tess: You are so right, the time factor is a huge deal when it comes to enriching relationships. Sounds like your story is directly related to the setting. Looking forward to reading it someday.

    Eileen: I love old cottages too!

    Jody: Is is so interesting to find out how different we are in topography, geography and weather.

  9. Cindy: I love how you put it- "irritate". The setting can be a worthy adversary and sounds like you know just how to work it.

    Sherrinda: Come empty-handed anytime! Had a blast with you and John.

    Tamika: I never thought about it like that, but you may be on to something. Setting may matter more because of our own personal preferences.

    Jessica: Good Luck at least we are following Maass' advice and trying to incorporate it.

  10. Sounds like a blast! IN my WIp setting is almost a character. COme to think of it, in all my novels...

  11. What a wonderful fellowship!! I seem to always set my stories in beach towns--not that that really affects my characters. LOL


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