Where Do Your Characters Sleep?

With NaNoWriMo just a few days away, here is one thing you could mull over before you dive into your writing like a crazy person during November: Where do your characters sleep? Think of this as part of the setting category of your writing.

We all recall our own teenage rooms with pop-culture posters and such. We are familiar with our coordinated visually pleasing adult bedrooms. But perhaps you don’t write contemporary.

This week I was reading of ancient Icelanders who lived in long, narrow sod houses, with one way in or out. The “master bedroom” was the one furthest in mostly because it was warmest, but also most private. The children, workers, guests, etc., slept two per bed along the walls, and they slept head to foot because it conserved space. I tried to image it, and first only came up with cold feet on one hand, or stinky feet on the other.

In the book Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All, we read how 14-year-old Lucy’s 50-year-old husband was so large, he slept diagonally on the narrow bed. She curled up wherever she could.

Have babies always slept in cribs? Where do they sleep today in rural China? A village in Ethiopia? On a Pacific Island?

In one of my books, I have people camping for a few weeks. This is not difficult for me to imagine since we were tent-campers for about twenty years. Write what you know. But my characters don’t even have a tent! Oh, that’s right. I’ve slept many a night outside with no tent myself, which is lovely, or exciting, like when a big, fat raccoon walked over me in the night. However, tent-camping or tentless-camping, I could quickly get to civilization and any amenities in short order, where that is trickier for my characters.

I think of cowboys who herded cattle from TX to the railroads up north, sending the cattle on to the packing houses in Chicago. (BTW, most cowboys were black-skinned, which is neither here nor there, but just clarifying history from those western actors of the ’50s.) A cowboy on trail usually wore one set of clothing for the two-week drive. He slept in his clothes and had a single blanket as a bedroll. That’s it. Hard ground. Single blanket. No pillow. Oh, and he burned his clothing at the end of the ride. Go figure.

So I reiterate: Where do your characters sleep? If it’s in a building, what is the furniture in the room? Pictures on the walls? Air circulation? Others the room? If it’s in a tree, what sort of tree and what additions? Cave? Woods? Seaside? Picture it. What sounds are there?  Furnace humming? Wolves howling? Mosquitoes buzzing? Hold it. Visualize and listen to it 360 degrees.  Doing it now means next week you will be ready to write it all up during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

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2 thoughts on “Where Do Your Characters Sleep?

  1. Interesting post, Sandy. I’ve had characters sleep under the stars, on boats and in cabins. It occurs to me, that recently my characters have slept mostly in new bedrooms because they’ve had to move. That’s an interesting dynamic too.

    • Ooh. New bedrooms. Hadn’t thought of that one. You’re right. It’s a different/interesting dynamic since it’s not normal or usual and can give sleepless nights being in the unfamiliar. Thanks for commenting.

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