So I’ve been offline while we made the big move. Within two weeks we’re unpacked, pictures and drapes are hung, and the moving boxes are handed off to others a la Craig’s List. Poof! Like magic, I’m transformed from Chicago/Midwest-Cheryl into Connecticut/East-Coast-Cheryl.

Gives new perspective to the Hamline residency that focuses on setting. I grew up in Ohio and have been in Chicago for 22 years. When my husband applied for his new job, I wondered, “Can I live on the East Coast? What parts of me will stay the same? What will be different?” The only way to find out was to come.

So far, East-Coast-Cheryl is addicted to the iphone app that shows my car as a purple dot on a roadmap. Roads here don’t subscribe to the grid system and street signs are inexplicably underfunded. Lots of people rely on geo-whatever-brand-mapping systems these days, but the important thing here is how my character feels about this detail of setting in my story. Chicago-Cheryl didn’t even have an iphone (there’s a telling character detail for you). Chicago-Cheryl knew where things and even when I didn’t, street signs and a glorious grid system were there to guide me. East-Coast-Cheryl feels indignant about major intersections with traffic lights and multiple spokes but zero street signs. I recognize, however, that nobody here thinks twice about it, which then makes East-Coast-Cheryl feel somewhat powerless in this new setting. Writer-Wherever-She-is-Living-Cheryl thinks there’s fodder here for a story in which getting lost is a repeating motif and spurs key plot points.

Don’t worry, I’m actually settling in fine. But I did previously promise an existential-identity-crisis post and don’t want to disappoint. And hey, East-Coast-Cheryl gets to eat soup and wear sweaters in the evenings as early as late August. Dig that.

So how does setting influence the character in a story you’re writing?

Or how did setting define something in your own life today that might be fuel for your stories?