Another holiday weekend here in Canada, another excuse to sleep late. Like I need another one.
I was lying in bed thinking of my new story this morning. Thoughts are always softer and more malleable before I get out of bed. And I started thinking about settings. In particular, the bedrooms of my characters.
If you’ve never read the book Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett, one, it’s good and you’re missing out, and two, there’s a section near the opening discussing how much you can tell about a person by examining their bed. Or at least the one they sleep in, which might not be the same thing at all.
I also need to flesh out some of the recurring settings in my story before November. Not so much to have a blueprint of them, but to have a feel for them. I need to know what they say about the characters who live there. And, occasionally, die there.
So, the challenge, then: describe the place your character—or characters, if you’re feeling ambitious—sleeps. A bedroom? A box? A coffin? The backseat of a car? A bench in the park? Someone else’s bedroom? A hotel? Upside down hanging from the ceiling? What does that space say about that person? Messy? Shiftless? Unhappy? Paranoid? Or irrevocably in love?
To get you started, here are two examples from my upcoming novel:
This room is old, a part subdivided from an old house. She just moved in a few days ago, so it’s still pretty damn bare. All that’s here is the sparse furniture that she bought after moving in, shoved in any old how. The bed is the only thing that’s seen any use. She didn’t make it again this morning; there was no time. Taking up much more room than the furniture are the crates containing her life of the last five years. One of clothes, which come to think of it will probably be much too light for this climate. Already she can feel her first real winter in years coming, just like the ones she remembers from her childhood. One crate has the tools of her trade: bottles, strange metal instruments, rolls of cloth and silk thread. She’ll need to find a place for them soon, a proper place. And two of books, which are the only crates that are even halfway unpacked. She keeps meaning to unpack fully, arrange things, make some kind of life here, but it’s been busy since she got back. Funny, she thought that all the rushing would be over when she finally got home. Instead, it feels like she swam from a mild stream into the ocean. She can feel the tide and the cold black depth under her feet. Sometimes she wonders if she’ll live long enough to unpack.
Not far from the first room is another, but this one is large and well-appointed. Someone has tastefully decorated it in dark, rich colours, nothing ostentatious. The furniture is all well-made, and it would be easy to overlook the blade marks scoring some places, almost covered by fresh paint. The woman here sleeps in the bed of a man she hates. It’s his bed, not hers; hers was the one she left behind five years ago, covered in blood. Sometimes when she wakes up here, for a second she thinks she’s still in the old bed, and for that second is happy. But then she opens her eyes and remembers everything. And then she turns to look at him, sleeping next to her. Her hands clench, and she thinks about getting one of her knives and driving it into the soft vulnerable place under his jaw, through skin and flesh, through the roof of his mouth and up into his brain. She wants to feel the blade scrape against his skull from the inside. But she can’t. So she lies back, staring at the ceiling, and wonders why she bothers to sleep at all.