Monday Challenge: Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Château of Fontainebleau, bedroom of Napoleon I

The person who sleeps here is probably overcompensating for something. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Monday Challenge: Smells Like Teen Spirit

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

This is the blog your blog could smell like. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the robot posts of last week, I’m back home and sorting out the inevitable mess that results from leaving your routine for any length of time. Seriously, where the hell do all these papers come from? Do they breed when I’m not looking? Do the cats bring them here? I don’t know. All I know is I want them to go away.


You know one of the weirdest things about leaving your home and staying somewhere else? The smell. Nowhere else in the world smells like your home. Whether that’s good or bad probably depends a lot on your cleaning habits, but still, there’s a scent there that follows you out into the world. It clings to your clothes and your skin. And when you’re in someone else’s place, you can always tell. Back when I used to get hand-me-downs from my aunts, I could always tell who had given me which sweater by how it smelled the first time I picked it up.

Smells are deeply linked to memory as well. There’s research to show that it’s the sense most closely linked to it; a scent can take you all the way back to your childhood in a heartbeat, without you even thinking about it.

Sensory input is tricky in writing. The default is always sight; after all, it’s the easiest and, for most people, the dominant sense. Sound is used a lot as well. But what about touch? Taste? Smell? What does you character’s car smell like? How does their favourite jacket feel on their skin? How does blood taste?

So here’s your Monday Challenge: stop right now, and close your eyes. Doesn’t matter where you are*; you don’t have to be at home for this. Take a breath and really think about what you smell in that second. Food? Perfume? Cleaning solution? Smoke? Even if it’s nothing at all, why is it nothing? Did someone just clean? Or are you in one of those in-between spaces that smells like no one and nothing, where people pass through without leaving anything behind?

Describe what that breath brings you, and what it tells you about your current setting. And while you’re doing it, think about bringing that kind of sensory input into your other writing. Sight is the easy way out; what else can you use to describe?

*Unless you’re behind the wheel of a car, in which case stop reading blogs while you’re driving.


Monday Challenge: Hanging Your Hat

The Home Welcome Sign

Hello. We missed you. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Monday, lovelies. Can you feel its icy breath on your neck as it tries to drag you back into Lazy Time? Not to worry, I’ve just the thing. Time to warm up your brain and flex your fingers. The week’s just getting started, so let’s get it going off right.

Today’s challenge is setting-related, but since all the elements of a story need to work together like Voltron, it’s character and plot related as well. Synergy: it’s the name of the game.

Today’s Iron Writing Ingredient is…..home.

That’s a loaded fucking word, isn’t it? Lots of baggage there. It’s the place you came from and sometimes the place you’re going. It can be the place you feel safe or the place you had to leave because it was no longer safe. It can be a house, a neighbourhood, a backseat of a car, a box in an alley, a hospital room. It can exist nowhere but inside your own head, something to be looked for and planned for. It can be nowhere at all.

If your character had a set of ruby slippers, where would they take her when she clicked her heels and wished?

Write about the place your main character thinks about when they consider the word ‘home’. Is it their apartment? Their parent’s place? Is it the same place it’s always been since they were a kid, no matter where their actual body was? Or will they be surprised to find the meaning of home has changed in their heart while they weren’t looking? Is it a safe place? Was it ever?  Are they there now? If not, why did they leave? What stops them from going back? Will they ever go there again?

Who is waiting there for them?

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to skin Monday and fly its pelt from my flagpole.