I’m interested in other people’s houses.
This fascination isn’t voyeurism; it’s the stuff of fantasy.
I first started thinking about my approach to other people’s houses in March. That’s when I started our new dog on his canine fat camp regime. In order to get our 3-6 miles/day in, Chance and I explored neighborhoods I’d never traveled before on foot. We’d pass a beautifully manicured lawn and I’d think about the person who cared so much about creating that perfect expanse of green. Was he obsessed with order in other parts of his life? Did he have walk-in closets with clothes organized by color? Was he a loner. a retiree with only one chair at his dining table?
We’d walk a little further and spot a house with solar panels on its roof. Were the homeowners former hippies? Did they hope to get completely off the grid someday? I imagined their floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in a skylit foyer. Their master bedroom would have a real fire place rather than than a gas one. And they have to have a vegetable garden in their backyard.
What about that place with high fences and growling dogs? Why all the secrecy? I mentally wrote the bullet holes in the wide wooden table in the living room, the mildewed carpet with cigarette–or dope–burns. Was there a safe room with gun racks in it? Was the building used for cooking meth? A nice neighborhood would be the perfect cover.
I had many questions but . . .
On the rare occasions I actually saw someone from one of those houses walk outside to pick up the morning paper or trim a hedge, my imagination spluttered.
I didn’t want to know the reality.
I didn’t want a peek at their furnishings or the insides of their cabinets.
I had a lot more fun with the truths I made up myself. Building worlds in those houses, peopling them with the characters I imagined, gave me a wonderful creative rush. A buzz of pure pleasure.
Ever since I noticed this curious tendency, I’ve been reading books with an eye toward how authors handle the little things in their characters’ homes. The extra-enjoyable element in this process is playing with what’s left out of the descriptions.
What type of faucet is in Poirot’s bathroom? I like to imagine a really cool deco one with sleek lines and, maybe, some kind of interesting black and white marble inlay.
What does the dresser in Sookie’s bedroom look like? I think one of the drawers might stick, maybe a handle is a little loose?
We know Susan spends time in Spenser’s kitchen, but do we know what color his stove is? I suspect he’s a black or chrome appliance kind of guy.
Nancy Drew’s kitchen could very well be done in avocado green with a cheery yellow dinette set, the kind with plastic-covered cushions that stick to bare thighs on hot summer days.
I don’t know if all this fantasizing will influence my writing. I’ve found that most creative exercises flex muscles that often get used in ways I don’t anticipate. But that’s not why I play with this. It’s just a kick to let myself go with these vignettes, to see what I come up with.
How about you?
Is there a house or building in your neighborhood you’ve already populated and furnished in your mind?
Tell us about it.
Is there a room in a favorite character’s house or place of work that you’ve spent time imagining–filling in the blanks left by an unsuspecting author?
What does it look like?