Setting #2 – A Character’s Bedroom

messy

What impression do you get about the person who uses this room? Photo by Ben Babcock, flic.kr/p/49Fy3M

Time for the second exercise on Settings!

These writing exercises are intended to help beginners who are stuck, but I try to make them useful for writers of all levels.

 

Last week we talked about your character’s hometown, so now let’s find out about his bedroom.

Exercise #2 – Describe a character using his or her bedroom.

What does Captain America’s bedroom look like? How about Harry Potter’s?

If you have a character who loves cats, what does her bedroom look like? How about someone who hates other people?

For this exercise, assume your character is the only regular occupant of the room – we want to shape the setting from this one character’s personality. If your character is not single at the start of your story, you could imagine what their bedroom would’ve been like before meeting their lover, or you could describe their personal study or office space.

You can use any character in this piece. You can create a character, or you could use a character from a book, TV show, or movie. This character will not appear in the piece. You are narrating as an observer who walks into their room – nobody is in this room right now.

Describe everything you see, hear, and smell. What is on the floor? On the bed? On the desk? Is there something unusual about the bed? Is everything neat and clean, or is it messy and dirty? Look for ways to give hints about the character’s job, hobbies, favorite animal, secret desires, or any other details you could place into the decor or arrangement of items in the room.

 

You can check your writing by looking at the sensory info and descriptions. How much detail can a reader learn about the character? Are there descriptive details about things one can see, hear, smell, and touch? Taste might be a tricky sense to work with in a bedroom, but by all means run with it if it’s justifiable! (A character who can’t live without junk food might have something tasty out on his desk, for example).

I’m trying this exercise myself with a character from my works. He’s from a sci-fi setting, so this will be an extra challenge for me to work in a few details from the future.

I’ll start with a couple sentences today, and the rest on Thursday. I hope you’ll share your character’s bedroom as well!

The door swings open, and a hint of newspaper greets my nose. I look to the bed first, surprised to see the newspapers strewn across the worn blanket. The New York Times catches my eye first, with the proclamation MEN WALK ON MOON in stark black text. The paper is crisp and white, as if the two-century-old story were printed yesterday. I pick up the reprint, the paper curling around my hands. Actual paper, most likely ordered from a specialty shop. I put the paper down and look to those next to it. Headlines from the Apollo program stand out in black text, along with more colorful reproductions detailing the establishment of Luna Colony and the first people on Mars.

Under the papers are signs of a worn, dull brown blanket and a decidedly off-white pillowcase with a deep indent in its middle. The walls around the bed are a dull blue – where it is possible to see them through the framed magazines hung all over. Time, Life, Newsweek, People, and less recognizable magazines from around the world – many famous covers, depicting events from space history. Valentina Tereshkova, Neil Armstrong, Yang Liwei – faces I recognize and some I don’t, but all are associated with great discoveries outside Earth.

(more to come, and I may revise / chop this down a bit!)

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