U is for Uproot


A great way to get to know your characters on a deeper level is to uproot them and drop them in unknown territory. How would they react? Would they cope? Do they do something unpredictable? Do you discover a trait that you weren’t aware of?

I uprooted from the UK to Germany in 2002 and underwent a lot of change that tested my own character. I had to learn how to adjust to my new environment: a new culture, language, work ethic, life-style. Here are just a few lessons learned:
  • Develop a thicker skin. Germans are direct and say it as it is without the typically British flourish. I’m still working on this.
  • Adjust my driving technique. Not only did I have to learn to drive on the other side of the road but I learned that niceness and giving way is not appreciated. It only confuses other drivers and is often accompanied with verbal abuse and overzealous horn blowing. I have acclimatized very well.  
  • Don’t expect to be in bed by midnight if you plan a night out with friends. A night out begins at 11pm and goes on until at least 4am. This tested my stamina to the hilt. I failed and turned into a grouch by 2am.
  • Get over the need for a cup of good ole English Tetley’s Tea – it ain’t gonna happen. Doh!
  • Make note to shop during the week. All shops are closed on Sundays and bank holidays. I love this. It promotes quality time to spend with family and friends. The downside is that this usually involves a lot of eating and is not good for the waistline but sacrifices have to be made.

Do you do any exercises to develop the characters in your writing?



Comments

  1. And I thought Americans were the abrupt ones.

    (Maybe just rude)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wouldn't make it much past midnight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Luckily, I very rarely have to participate and I've trained my husband to be 'normal' :)

      Delete
  3. I wouldn't like staying up that late. Mornings are the best parts of the day. I wouldn't mind stores being closed on Sundays. That's a family day at our house.

    Susan Says

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really does make a difference. Family time is so important.

      Delete
  4. I could get used to driving on that other side of the road. That's never been a problem for me, but staying up until all hours? Huge challenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To keep me on the correct side of the road, whenever I have to swap between the UK and Germany, I always recite, "steering wheel in the middle of the road". That usually keeps me out of trouble :)

      Delete
  5. i wonder, do we really succeed in growing roots at the new place

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it takes a long, long time.

      Delete
  6. This is a terrific idea! I've never done it before, but it can prove to be so interesting!
    PS: Good job on learning to drive on the other side of the road; I'd have a nervous breakdown at the wheel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Me :)It takes some motivation to do writing exercises when all you want to do is get the story down but it's well worth it.

      Delete
  7. We used to have Sundays closed until the early 90's when places like walmart started testing the law and the law didn't win. Germans are nuts on the road...no other way to say it except they are crazy. I grew up with the direct approach so that suits me but my mom is German so I must have just been trained that way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was a big softy and learned the hard way - a few tears along the way. But it prepared me for the writing world - a thick skin is most definitely required :)

      Delete
  8. I agree with you about shops and Sundays - I liked it when Sundays were quiet days. Mind you, I hate shopping so one day less to do it wouldn't bother me at all :-) xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hate girlie shopping and avoid it as much as possible. When my friends ask me to go shopping, I just say 'I'll meet you for lunch.' :)

      Delete
  9. If the steering wheel is in the middle of the road, then that's normal for me. In France they drive that way as well. It's the UK that drives on the 'wrong' side of the road. . .I would find it difficult, but would learn. I am a transplant (uprooted) too. I came to Canada from the US and met a Canadian man and stayed. I've lived here now longer than I lived in my birth country. That might not have happened if I hadn't had a travelling bug and if I had been somewhere I liked, but it was a small town and I'm a city woman. . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lovely part of the world. Naaahh the UK drives on the proper side of the road. It's the majority of the rest of the world that gets it wrong - of course :):) The last time I went back to the UK, I did end up driving on the wrong side, much to my mother's amusement (and horror). Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  10. Dunno about characters, but I myself have been uprooted several times, should have skin like a rhino by now but don't. Work in progress.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean, Nilanjana. Baby steps :)

      Delete
  11. Never really considered it, but it would be a fun way to get to know the characters and the place. Rude drivers are preferred, yay! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :) You are funny. I still can't hit my carhorn without feeling embarrassed. Still some work to do:)

      Delete
  12. Oh my! I wouldn't survive in Germany. I'm a morning person so staying up so late would be awful.

    I love the idea of dropping your character somewhere new and out of their comfort zone. Usually I just sit and daydream a character's entire life to learn why they do the things they do. Sometimes I have "interviews" with them. Those are often hard because the list I have doesn't relate to my otherworldly characters. Of course, asking them how they feel about Justin Bieber can be quite telling. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've heard of interviewing characters. I must try that. It sounds like fun. Talia's such a strong character, I'm sure she'd adjust well to all sorts of places, especially if there are trees. I'd like to invite her for a typically British Afternoon Tea :)

      Delete
  13. I always wanted to visit New Zealand, but I know trying to drive on what would seem to me the "wrong" side might prove the death of me or others!
    I love putting my characters in strange lands -- like putting Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde in 1895 Cairo and the desert ruins of pyramids excavations!

    Like you, I would start to wilt after two in the morning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I strive to be as adept as you at putting characters 'out of their zone'. Thanks for popping by, Roland.

      Delete
  14. I'm sure it's a huge challenge to uproot to a different country. Dealing with learning a new language and adapting to different customs isn't easy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After almost 14 years of being here, I'm still learning.

      Delete
  15. When I visited the Netherlands, all the stores closed by 5PM and weren't open at all on Sunday, and some only opened 1/2 day on Saturday. They really believe in family time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, a lot of shops here only open half days on Saturdays too. But a lot more are staying open later as time goes on. I do like the Netherlands, even though it's a bit flat (that's why I like it, no hills to climb when I'm on my bike:))

      Delete
  16. See, it's the tea thing that would be a sticking point. I love the idea of visiting other countries long-term, but I gotta have my cuppa :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's easily remedied. Every time a visitor comes, they must bring teabags :)

      Delete
  17. See, it's the tea thing that would be a sticking point. I love the idea of visiting other countries long-term, but I gotta have my cuppa :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This German household has a stock of good tea-bags :)

      Delete
  18. I remember a professor on my MA saying to write a CV for your character. I'd never thought of that before.
    Fran
    @FranClarkAuthor
    Writing Women’s Fiction

    ReplyDelete
  19. It's life experiences like this that writers can use to make characters seem authentic or fail miserably.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Uprooting is how you can make stories move forward! But I'm not sure I'd like moving to another country. It sounds like you're still making the adjustment!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some days are more difficult than others. It takes time.

      Delete
  21. I love a good cup of tea!
    Never thought about dropping a character in unknown territory.
    Could be risky...but definitely interesting.
    You always read how some characters turn on their creator...become stubborn...make demands...do their own thing.
    Writer In Transit

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the challenge of a stubborn character.

      Delete
  22. I often wish that everything was closed on Sundays the way it used to be. People need time with their families! And as long as there's coffee, I'll manage :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. I have never visited Germany before (but I'd love to someday), and if I'm ever there, I'll remember your tip about the driving. I would think that someone would appreciate nice driving and giving way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a great country to visit. So many beautiful places.

      Delete
  24. I've never thought of this concept! Thanks for the jolt to my imagination!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Dropping someone into an unknown territory can be very confusing! If i suddenly had to live in another place, i'm not sure how i would react, although i can imagine it would be good for me to have to make such an adjustment once in a while.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Due to extensive travel options, the option to return to one's roots is always there. That eases the transition.

      Delete
  26. Great idea about moving characters into a new setting. I also agree that life without my favorite tea would be tough, since I don't like coffee.

    @barbsbooks
    Barb's Garden Observations
    Paso Robles in Photos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are an array of teas but mainly fruity or herby - not my thing.

      Delete
  27. I don't know if I can imagine uprooting characters, but I have been uprooted a ridiculous number of times. I think it was thirteen times in thirteen years at one point. I created many beautiful homes, and had to give up every one. Not my choice. When I am uprooted again, I will be on the way to the crematorium.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no, Janie. That sounds tough.

      Delete
  28. As a child in third grade I moved from one place to another and even though Jamaica is a small island the difference was jarring at first. I went from a very close neighborhood to a brand new one with a lot of people owning their first home. Still miss where I used to live sometimes but I'm grown now and know that change is always constant and it's all about perspective. And not moving in next to a killer. A big no, no/ please don't let that be me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no! That's a frightening thought.

      Delete
  29. I love this. I switched schools as a kid, thinking it would change something about me. It didn't. It just made me realize I wanted to be back where I left.

    I blame TV shows, movies, and books. They gave me such an unrealistic view of the world. Switching schools doesn't automatically make you popular!

    Anyway, I love this as a writing (and remembering!) exercise.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I skimmed your other posts. Love this U post and your observations about German culture. My husband spent a lot of time in Germany and had friends including a couple of girlfriends whom I've met. Yes, those Germans are SO direct. LOL. Maui Jungalow

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Hello! So pleased you've popped by. I love to read your comments, so do leave one - even if it's just to say 'hi'!