Girl in the Wrong Bedroom

The second wife wanted to redecorate. “What colors would you like?” she asked her daughter and me. “Purple and black,” said N.

“Yellow. Or cream. Gold. And white,” I said.

I got everything I wanted. N. didn’t get black. Instead, she got pale blue walls, curtains with blue birds, and fire engine red carpet. I rolled my eyes watching my father put that red carpet in. Of course, she hated my gold carpet, too.

I had a corner bedroom and got more sunlight than N., and I loved the pale yellow curtains with a sun painted on them. I liked the brightness of the white walls. It had been my room all my eleven years.

“You’re going to switch rooms,” my step-mother said.

N. argued. N. knew how to scream and throw things. She knew what to say to get the worst but most satisfying punishment. Maybe if I’d had screamed and argued with her, we’d have won. But my dad said, “Be nice. She’s had a hard life, and you’re so lucky to have these things.” I avoided N., and went and moved all my very nice things.

I stayed in that room with the red carpet for several months–until the next time the second wife left us. She came back again, of course, this time with another daughter… well, that’s another story.

When I got to move my things back into my room, I begged my dad to let me tear the yellow curtains down. It took five years for him to agree to spend the money on something new.

So, where are your characters? What rooms do they inhabit? Do the colors reflect who they are or who they aren’t? Do they fit? Do they prefer red carpet or gold? Or perhaps wood floors? Are they in the setting of their choice or did someone push them in there?

What setting do you go back to again and again in your fiction? Does it say more about your characters or you?

7 thoughts on “Girl in the Wrong Bedroom

  1. My settings probably say more about me than my characters because I place my stories in the setting I’d like to live. If I can’t do it in real life, then I can at least do it in my imagination.

    But I hope that I develop characters that fit there as well. I will think about this as I develop more settings.

  2. What setting do you go back to again and again in your fiction?

    Hmm… Dunno. I do seem to like writing scenes in shopping centers and along busy city retail blocks, although they’re never “main” settings — more like an escape (for the author as much as the characters).

    In the book I’ve currently got more or less in the can, I think my favorite setting is an old hotel (which is more than a hotel). In one scene, a character who has been imprisoned for a long time has been brought to the hotel to recover from the experience. This takes a couple of months. When he finally is led from his room into hotel proper, he’s exquisitely aware of the threadbare accoutrements — the dusty plastic plants, the worn carpet, and so on. That was the most satisfying setting I ever wrote (if that makes sense).

    She came back again, of course, this time with another daughter.

    That right there could be the foundation of a writing exercise: Write a story for which that is either the first or last sentence. What a hook!

  3. Hi, M! Peaking out from hibernation. One of the things I love about this blog is the way you use episodes from your life and immediately ask questions that twist them around as if fiction and make the reader think about how they would apply those questions and twists to their own writing of fiction. I love the story about the rooms and how we try to express ourselves in the space around us when we can, though that expression can change over time. Lots of things like that change over time. I also just read your initial story about your mother and that brings so much home to me about all I’ve censored all these years, of myself and my writing, worrying about parents who would never read anything I wrote anyway. They never have. So thanks for inspiring some other pages to scribble in my paper writing notebook.

  4. Shelli, it is good to love your setting. Makes it more real.

    JES, you’ve intrigued me with that little bit of description. Now I want to know what happens in this “more than a hotel?” Oh, and if you run with that hook, let me know.

    Writer no Reading, I’m glad you’re peeking out of hibernation. Now go on scribble.

    Shelly, I do hope I directed you to the right room.

  5. Thank you for the feedback, Marta. If I decide to Run With That Hook, you’ll be the first to know! 🙂

    (For the record, though — the hotel-which-isn’t-just-a-hotel does not mean that it’s, y’know, an Evil Entity or anything. So I hope you’re not looking for “The Haunting” or anything. It’s just a facade, a veneer over activities and, umm, facilities which are not at all rundown and threadbare, appearances to the contrary.)

  6. JES, I don’t want to read an evil-entity-hotel book. I do want to read a things-are-not-all-that-they-appear book (without the butcher knives and psychopaths).

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