Mental Set Dressing

When I’m writing, even if it’s just a piece of flash-fiction, I have to know where a character lives. Or at least where she spends her time. I know that my barista character lives above her cafe, in an apartment with exposed brick walls, a Franklin stove and 19th Century furniture, all of which was rescued from estate sales, garage sales, and old lady aunties.

I know that Kat, the OFC in the ST:TNG fanfic I’m writing has a desk a lot like my actual desk – glass and brushed steel, very clean lines, and that her kitchen is all shiny black and cobalt blue, and that she likes to be barefoot on plush carpeting.

I know that Zoe (named after a character in a movie I saw in college), the lead in my first NaNo novel, Illusions of Motion that I really should edit, lives in a bungalow with hardwood floors, and lots of cabana stripes and teakwood, and that her favorite mug is purple with stylized daisies and fits the curve of her hand in just the right way, and that her lover, Joren the jazz musician (named after a guy I knew in junior high school) has a ratan rug in his studio, because the texture of the fibers under his feet inspires him to always move with the music.

Having this mental set dressing, knowing the space they inhabit, is as important when I’m getting a feel for a character, as when I’m describing their clothes or their facial expression, or figuring out their tone of voice.

It’s also kind of fun.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Mental Set Dressing by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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