Posts Tagged ‘experiment’

Today I was visiting someone in one of our local hospitals.  As I said on Thursday, this week is not so much productive as reflective, and following this particular visit I thought it would be worth playing about by using a hospital visit as the basis for an exercise.

This is setting as described by a particular character – 20 year old Emma, a reluctant visitor to her grandfather’s sickbed.

What the place seems like to her: A waiting room, for a train with an unknown destination. Everything is in shades of grey-beige, bland and porridgelike.  Oversized wall art and brightly-coloured medical zones can’t hide the functional feel of the place, and the bird-like chatter from the nurses only seems to make the silence in between wards more oppressive.

The floors are polished, but only the edges retain the shine by the end of visiting hours: countless feet have stripped away the surface care.  There are scuffs – from beds, sticks, frames, shoes – gouged into the floor like graffiti on old stone.  It tells the story of the place, but no-one wants to read it.

There is a smell she can’t quite place, like disinfectant with an undertone of gravy from the restaurant.  It comes and goes in waves as the doors around her open and close.  As she nears the right ward and squirts her hands with anti-bacterial gel, she adds a chemical rose to the olfactory experience.

Walking through the ward is like walking past a badly-tuned radio: conversation in waves, bed by bed, with the white noise of beeping machines and blood pressure monitors always in her ears. She looks into each bay, vaguely ashamed of seeing people so vulnerable.  A sleeping stranger kicks his bare foot out of the covers, and she hastily looks away.

Finally, at the end of the marathon, is the finish line: Grandpa’s bed.  She is glad to see he’s sitting next to it: her heart slows down and she takes a careful breath.  This time, she can smell the aftershave she bought at Christmas and wrapped so carefully.

What do you think?  What am I missing, what could be made clearer, what could be enhanced?  This is a first draft and just reading it out loud there are some changes I’d like to make, but they aren’t all about setting…

I enjoyed this exercise, and I might try to create an alternative for next week if there’s limited writing time again – perhaps a father arriving at the delivery suite, or a young nursing student in her first placement. Inevitably there are multiple ways of approaching hospitals as settings because there are multiple reasons to be there; there’s a reason they are the basis of so many tv shows!

I would much prefer to be staying on track but at least this is a way of testing out what I’ve learnt about setting so far.

Until next time,

Happy writing,




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