raze: A man and a rooster. (motherfucking WRITING)
[personal profile] raze posting in [community profile] writerslounge
There is a tiny room in the back of my house that we haven't used in the better part of the just over a year and a half that we've lived here. It was full of old clothing from the previous owners, and as I learned today upon entering and immediately being swarmed by an army of tiny black bloodsucking pests, those clothes were home to enough fleas to drain a horse in about an hour. I just spent a good two hours getting eaten alive while destroying everything in said room and dousing the whole lot of it with bleach and pesticides and... being a writer, it made me think about writing.

Obviously any setting is important to your text. However, I have always felt that characters' homes really say a lot about them - just like our homes say a lot about us. For example, I find it bizzare that we have an unused room in this place, since the rest of it is so packed full of parrots, fish, reptiles, and one tiny, spoiled house chicken; I've been to other peoples' houses that look like home decorating magazines that make me feel uncomfortable because I'm pretty sure I'm messing the place up just by breathing.

So, tell me about your characters' homes and if they reflect anything meaningful about your character. Are there family photos on the walls? Is the place a stinking, filthy, ill-kept mess? Dusted and vacuumed and cleaned so often that it looks like no one lives there? Brightly lit? Dimly lit? What does it smell like? Will a dog jump on me when the door opens? How many locks are there, and are they often used? Is the yard maintained, embellished, or going wild? Talk to me, folks.

I'll give an example:
My main character lives in two locations through the course of the series, and the homes are a stark contrast to each other to reflect the changes he's undergone as a character.

When he lived with his fiance, the house was very homey indeed, full of photos and refridgerator magnets and dog toys and similar fare. Warm lighting, colorful decor, collected objects, tidy but still lived in, a fully stocked guest room, etc. They each have a desk piled with junk from work, but it doesn't spill over to any other part of the house. There's a vegetable garden out front, the lawn is mowed but not manicured, and the garage is a cluttered disaster of nonetheless well-used outdoors equipment. It speaks of a place where people really live, and are happy.

His second home has the bare minimum of furniture, drab colors, virtually no personalization - no photos, no little nick-nacks, no embelishments, etc. - a work desk, and an essentially empty spare room that he didn't bother setting up for guests because he has no expectation of company. His only photos are in a box in the closet. He has an old dog collar on his night table, but no dog. Though he is a bachelor, it has none of the characteristic "bachelor pad" amenities, and looks a bit like he recently moved in despite being there for five years.

This is highly deliberate, because in the first instance he has a rich and fulfilling life that friends, family, and his fiance are a significant part of. Later, he is isolated, lacks a sense of belonging, and so invested in only his work that the only place he's really personalized as "his" is his office. It also speaks to his emotional state; he really just doesn't care enough to even bother making his house 'his.'

Essentially, the houses are designed to be an extension of the character, and I do this with most any home-owning character in the series. How about you?

Date: 2011-11-19 04:59 pm (UTC)
smw: A woman sits at a typewriter, pages flying, a plug in the back of her awesomely big-curly hair. (Writing)
From: [personal profile] smw
Good topic! Homes and cars are both very telling about whoever owns them, I find.

In my universe, there are several houses that are major locations -- Tomhause even has a name. That's a rotting bulk of a plantation mansion that overlooks sugarcane fields down to the sea. It's an evil place, and the witch who inhabits it is making sure the process of its rotting doesn't poison the hills around it. The few rooms she lives in are carefully kept up to livable standards, but they are still plagued with leaks, mold, animal interlopers, and structural breakdown as the rest of the structure disintegrates.

On a smaller scale, one of my soldier-knights -- Melisande -- lives in a two-room apartment for some time. She travels enough that there's always an air of transience to the space. It's not messy so much as ruffled -- a "things out of order to be put into place when the owner returns in a few days" kind of business. The furniture and decor are the same as when she moved in.

And then Urooa happens. He's from a culture where there are two categories of ownership: "things we don't bother to have" and "things that are ours". As such, within a few months her apartment becomes a repository for random crap that he thoughtlessly leaves behind -- since her space is his space. "Random crap" includes scarves, foodstuff, top-secret documents, and probably a skull on at least one occasion.

Date: 2011-11-19 05:33 pm (UTC)
intothewood: (Default)
From: [personal profile] intothewood
This is a really interesting point, something I haven't thought about but on reflection, I have made the homes an extension of my characters.

In one book I describe what a character sees upon entering a home for the first time:
"Inside is dark, quiet, smelling of cigarette smoke, spices, and mildew. Slowly he walks across the narrow foyer where he drops his pack, and starts down the hallway, peeping into the rooms as he passes. The front room is sparsely furnished with a few unmatched chairs and one low, long table. Across the hall is a small drawing room filled with art. What wasn’t hanging on the walls was leaning against them, stacked two or three deep. Sculptures, pottery and artifacts cluttered small tables, a cacophony of different styles, different origins and conceptualizations. The rooms and their contents seem to be detached staging areas for bits and pieces that held no sway in day-to-day life. He begins to wonder whether his father had really lived there at all, or if it was just a place for him to stash belongings and gather mail."

In another, there are three residences that reflect my characters. One is a darkened cave shared by two secret lovers. It is a physical extension of their relationship, blind to one another yet intimate. One character lives by himself in a castle chamber (isolated), another lives in a busy family compound (outgoing with no secrets held).

So yes, I do use dwellings as representations of characters, I just never put that together. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

Date: 2011-11-23 04:16 am (UTC)
noctuary: (Default)
From: [personal profile] noctuary
Nice discussion! (Also, hi, everyone. I've been a bit MIA. I like what you've done with the place!)

So, for my "main novel", i.e. the one I'd like to actually submit for publication when I finally finish it, there are two characters whose homes I've been in and around the most.

The MC's flat is very bare, for the most part. Everything she owns is down one end of the flat: boxes of belongings instead of storage furniture, a long couch, and her bed in the corner. The rest of the place is empty, no furniture or anything; she's a painter and likes to have a lot of space in which to devote herself to her art. Her bed is a mattress on the floor, surrounded by gauzy curtains and lots of blankets. There's no door to her bathroom. The lack of furniture is not uncommon among many of her friends.

Her best friend's flat has a lot of things in it. There's a big, proper bed that is generally made, and always has lovely blankets and extra cushions. He has a small table that is covered in books and papers and various sundries. The small kitchenette is very clean, mostly because he rarely cooks anything. The bathroom has a door, and is airier than his friend's. He has a big, luxurious arm-chair and another chair of wood that sits beside his overloaded table. He has an entire wall taken up by bookshelves and more books stacked on any available surface, except in the kitchenette, probably because he would fear them getting wet.

I hadn't really thought of it before but this speaks to their characters. For the most part, their group of friends doesn't spend much time at home; they're more likely to be in a gallery, a bar or a coffee shop. So home comforts aren't important to the MC; she'd rather have the space in which to be messy with paint. She has no door to her bathroom because it fell off the hinges and she saw no pressing reason to spend the money, time and effort to get it fixed; she doesn't have concerns about nakedness or anything like that so it doesn't bother her. But she does have an end of the flat dedicated to comfort and softness, and her bed is a nest; she finds physical comfort emotionally comforting also. She can be a nostalgic person and it reminds her of her childhood.

He, on the other hand, while just as likely as their other friends to spend most of his time in coffee shops, is rather a decadent individual and loves his silk and velvet and so on. He indulges, and because they rarely have money to indulge with, he indulges in his home. So he has the big old arm-chair in which to compose and he has the big bed, because sleep and sex are so important, and he would probably like to be neater, but books always come first, so they're everywhere. Books don't count as mess; with everything else he is far more neat. But if it involves paper or ink, it will be all over the place. His flat is like his clothing: neat, extravagant, but with ink-stains on the cuffs.


writerslounge: (Default)
The Writers' Lounge


The Writers' Lounge is a friendly, informal chat, crit, discussion and resources group.

Have questions or want to discuss something? Fire away! Want some feedback on a piece of writing you're working on? Post it! Stuck with research, or found a fabulously useful resource others might benefit from? Step up and share!

We expect a level of maturity in our members, but we're open to all genres and levels of experience. Read full details on the comm profile or, if you need help, contact your friendly mods, [personal profile] intothewood and [personal profile] analect.

layout by [community profile] visualwit

February 2013


Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags