SETTING is a Character ~ by Tracy Garrett

It’s always a special day when one of our fillies return to the corral!  We’re so happy to have you with us again, Tracy!


Have you ever noticed how the setting of a book is an essential part of a story? There may be exceptions, but I don’t think you can pick up a story and drop it into another place—state, landscape, town versus farm. It just wouldn’t work well.


When I started writing JAMES, I decide to set it in Nebraska for several reasons. First, I needed the town of King’s Ford to be close enough to a mining area that my heroine could make the trip, but far enough away that it would be dangerous for her. Since there was gold mining in the Black Hills of the Dakota territory, I grabbed my atlas (yes, I still have one) and looked for the path she would have to take. It led me to a place near Chadron, Nebraska, a real town in the northwestern corner of the state.


The location gave me a wagon route to Cheyenne, Wyoming, that a wagon train might take, and a grassland that would support a yearly cattle drive to the railhead in North Platte. Perfect, I thought.


Trout Ranch near Chadron, NE
Chadron, NE









Now, I’d been through Nebraska once while on a tour with my college choir. We sang in Lincoln, then lit out for Colorado. All I really remember is that I could see the Rocky Mountains coming for hours and hours—it felt like days!

Eastern NE is flat!

So, my memory of Nebraska is flat. Research, however, made me realize that wasn’t the case for the area I’d chosen. Back to editing.


JAMES is set in the rolling hills of northwestern Nebraska. And those hills come into play in the story. So does the weather, but that’s another blog.






What do you think? Do you care where a story is set or does it not really matter to you?

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win one of two electronic copies of JAMES.



JAMES by Tracy Garrett

After five years leading the Lord’s flock in King’s Ford, Nebraska, The Reverend James Hathaway is used to the demands on his time. But nothing could prepare him to find a baby in a basket on his front step. He always expected to marry before becoming a father. Then a young widow agrees to help him learn to care for the child and he wonders if he hasn’t found his future.


Widow Esther Travers is still reeling over the loss of her newborn baby girl when she’s asked to help care for another baby. Vowing to get the little one off to a good start, she doesn’t plan to fall for the very handsome preacher, too.


“Reverend! Reverend Hathaway!”

James heard Tad shouting long before he reached the cabin at the north end of King’s Ford, the town he’d called home for nearly five years now. The seven-year-old ran errands for many folks in town, though most often it was for the doctor. If Doctor Finney was sending for a preacher this early in the morning, it couldn’t be good news. James buttoned his vest and pulled on his frock coat then glanced in the small mirror hung beside the front door to be sure his collar was tucked in properly, then studied his face.

He looked tired. A wagon had creaked and rumbled past his home well before dawn and the noise had dragged him from a sound sleep. He’d been sitting at the table since then, trying to write his Sunday sermon, but inspiration hadn’t gotten out of bed with him. Ah, well. It was only Tuesday.

James glanced around his small home. The parsonage, if you could call the drafty, poorly lit cabin by so lofty a title, sat at the far north end of town. The church sat to the south of the parsonage, which meant the larger building did nothing to block the winter winds that howled down from the Dakota hills thirty or so miles away.

Deciding he wouldn’t scandalize any parishioner he passed, he lifted his hat from the small table under the mirror and opened the door. He was so focused on Tad that he nearly tripped over a basket left on his stoop.

“What on earth?”

“A basket.”

“Yes, Tad, I see that. Who left it here?” He immediately thought of the wagon that had awoken him. “Why didn’t they knock? I’ve been home since nightfall.”

Tad crept closer, lifted a corner of the cloth covering the contents, and jumped back like there was a snake inside. “Baby!” Tad yelled.

“Don’t play games, Tad. Tell me what’s…” James didn’t jump away, though he wanted to. “Merciful heavens, there’s a baby in here.”

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30 thoughts on “SETTING is a Character ~ by Tracy Garrett”

  1. Good Morning Tracy.
    I truly believe the setting of a book is critical.
    I often choose a book because of its setting.
    I love the Rockies and when a book is set in CO, WY or MT, I am really, really drawn to them. I often will read a book that also had a setting in a town I’ve visited or near a town I know.
    This was a great blog, I never thought about it, or maybe I subconsciously have always somewhat let the settings of a book be what drew me in.

    Have a Blessed Friday and weekend.

  2. It really doesn’t matter to me, but if it’s a location that I am familiar with, or a place I would like to visit, it makes those books even better for me.

  3. I don’t really care where a story is set as long as its well written. I do enjoy stories set in my state, but that just because its your home. I wouldn’t want to read all stories from my state.

  4. Good morning! The setting of a book is a very intricate part of the story and if it, its surroundings and such aren’t very descriptive it leaves a story lacking in my opinion. I wouldn’t say I care where a story takes place as long as it’s very well described and fits true to the time and story.

    I love the excerpt to James and would love the opportunity to read it. I’ve yet to read one of your books and would love the opportunity! Stay safe in these difficult times.

  5. YES the setting makes all the difference to me – not a city person and do not want to read about anything in a big city setting!!

  6. Welcome Back. I love learning where authors get their inspiration from. Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful book cover. Ohh but this really sounds interesting. I love when an author can pull me into the story so I dont want to leave.
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  7. Welcome back, Tracy! Always great to have you back with us. I agree, setting is crucial to a book and is every bit as memorable as the characters themselves.

    And hey, ladies, if you haven’t read JAMES, read it NOW!! It’s so well done!

  8. Oh, yes, I definitely like it when the setting plays an important part in the book. And when I read blogs like yours today I realize again how hard it is to get to right and how much work goes into it. As I reader I really appreciate it. Makes me feel like I’m there and seems there is always a little bit of history to learn. JAMES sounds great!

  9. Sallycootie, it can be a challenge to get it right, especially if you’ve never lived in the place. Thank you for stopping by.

  10. The setting for most stories is really important. In small town stories and series, the town itself is more of a character than a setting. Personally, a story and characters that can easily be shifted from one setting and/or timeframe to another lacks a certain validity. Good research and placement for the locale of a story makes all the difference. Most people won’t be checking a map or researching to see if your settings facts are accurate. But people familiar with the area or those passing through will know, and that will be a strike against the story. I am someone who brings books which are set in the areas we will visit on our trips. It makes the stories more real to read them in a place they are set or to do so after visiting. Matching up the place and the book gives an authenticity to the story and author. Thank you for taking the time and effort to make your story as true to time and place as you do.
    Stay safe and healthy.

    • Patricia, I agree about the importance of the setting in a small town story. I learned early on in my career that getting the details right keeps a knowledgeable reader immersed in the story. I like that you bring books that are set where you are traveling. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I think setting is important. And even if I’m not personally familiar with the area, I appreciate the research an author does to try to get it right.

  12. I also think of Nebraska as being flat prairie, so I would have been like you and had to go back to editing. This sounds like a good story. Thank you for sharing and yes, setting is super important to most every story.

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