Setting and Its Impact

This past week, I spent five days in the Smoky Mountains.  It took us an hour to drive from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC in spite of the fact that it was only 20 miles away.  On one side of the mountain we drove through sun although we could see mist in the distance.

Come around the side of the mountain and we would find ourself in mist and fog.  That was when the 35 mph speed limit seemed excessive.  We wondered how often people hiking through the woods walked right up on one of the many black bear or spooked one of the elk herds.

As we explored the area, I found myself thinking about how the setting would impact the people who live there. We saw a magic shop.  This wasn’t a fantasy shop but one that sold the various bits and pieces necessary to cast spells.  We saw fortune tellers and palm readers.  As a writer I could imagine the impact that the setting had on the people’s beliefs.  This misty, mystic atmosphere would lend itself to a mysterious, magical belief system.

But not every group of mountains would have this impact.  My Dad grew up in the Davis Mountains in the west Texas desert. Magic, mystical beliefs?  No.  Not even close.  There were rules and you followed them.  In the Davis Mountains, when tourists got lost you didn’t wait for them to wonder back into camp.  You sent out a team complete with climbers and a stretcher.  Injured or dead, that piece of equipment would come in useful.  Dad’s sense of humor is sharp and more than a little cutting, an awful lot like the landscape.

Think about the setting for your story.  How would life in temperate rain forest effect a character’s beliefs and ways of doing things?  What about a swamp or the taiga?  What impact would these ecosystems have?  I plan to do some reading on this and I’ll let you know what I find.

Click here for a post on researching your setting first hand.