Friday, July 22, 2016


A friend of mine recently posted the following to social media:
"'The room was remarkable for being completely unremarkable.' If all writers could stop doing this, say for the next hundred years?"
Being the dink that I am, I read this statement and saw it as a challenge!

So, here's my attempt to describe the unremarkable room and also to make it funny.  I sent it off to my friend and they laughed instead of trying to throttle me, so I think I succeeded!

I have posted it below for posterity.

The room was unremarkable.

A lesser writer, upon confronting the descriptive void that was the room, would have been stymied in their attempts to describe it.  They might have tossed off the usual bon mot—the room was remarkable for being unremarkable—and left it at that.

Other writers would at least make the attempt, although some might be so bored by the room’s intrinsic lack of remarkableness that they would give up after less than a sentence.

Still other writers might find the blank void of the room a useful space in which to unpack their overstuffed trunks, casting similes and metaphors out in reckless abandon in the hopes that something, somehow, would stick to the unremarkable walls.

Let us try that last attempt ourselves, shall we?

So, a room.  It is the sort of room that a character in a dystopian or science-fiction story would awaken in, wondering where (or even what) they were.  It is the sort of room that a number of tertiary characters, their voices indistinguishable thanks to lazy characterization, would occupy to have a rambling conversation that both lacks dialogue tags and does not further the plot in any meaningful way.  It is a room that those without easy access to a dictionary might describe as cringing or insouciant.

The walls of the room are white, of course, though the exact nature of the whiteness of the room is currently in dispute.  Color theorists and employees of a local paint store are currently engaged in a bitter feud about whether or not the room is a light grey or bone-colored.  The sole holdout who insisted that the room was ecru has been summarily drummed out of the discussion, but not before pointing out that ecru is a very light beige and that beige, of course, is one of the most unremarkable colors known to humanity.

It is fortunate indeed that your humble author is colorblind, and can therefore pay little heed to this intractable discussion.  Let us move on.

One might imagine that the room has no features, for features are interesting by their very nature and therefore worthy of description.  The floors and ceiling are thus also white (or ecru), presumably, although one might think it worth mentioning that the floor is painted white.  However, dickering about with paint, its shade, and the strangeness of location, is merely avoiding the actual interesting question when faced with a room that is otherwise devoid of interest.

Where is the light coming from?

It must be coming from somewhere, otherwise the room would be dark and the sentence would read, “the room, apart from being dark, was unremarkable.”  Since we can see that the room is unremarkable, we know that there must be some light.  It can’t be coming in through a window, however, since it (and possibly the scene viewable through it) might be worthy of some expository phrases.  Similarly, it cannot be coming from a light fixture, because a light fixture, even one as humble as a bare bulb hanging from a cord, is worthy of a description.

Perhaps the walls themselves glow faintly with a pearlescent radiance, thereby providing the room light.  Except, as we have already ascertained, this can’t be happening, because glowing walls would increase the remarkableness of any room into which they are installed a thousand-fold.

Ah, but there is a solution.  Maybe the light comes from our slightly-better described protagonist.  He (for it is always a he in these sorts of stories), could be creeping about a darkened building, using a flickering oil lamp, a torch, a flashlight, or the screen of his cellular telephone to illuminate the scene.  Our protagonist opens the door and, in the dim light, sees an empty room, devoid of windows, furnishings, or light fixtures, and whose every surface is coated in flat, off-white paint.  He nods to himself, thinking how remarkable it is that this room is completely unremarkable.

Except for the dead body on the floor. 

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