Thursday, February 26, 2015

H is for Houses

Debra wonders what our characters' home say about them.

Where do your characters live? Is it a sprawling ranch house? A high rise condo? An apartment over a store? Is it in a big city? A small town?

What does their home look like on the inside? Traditional and cozy? Sleek and modern? Sparse because they spend more time at the office than at home? What is the color scheme? Cool blues or greens? Earthy browns and tans? Soft whites and greys? Do they have artwork on the walls? Picture of their friends and family on the mantel? What kinds of books or DVDs or CDs are on the shelves?

Our characters' living space can give us a lot of insight into their personalities. We can learn a lot about them by exploring the place they call home.

Therefore, when describing the space, we shouldn't skimp on the details. However, every detail should have a purpose. Are there piles of clothes on the bedroom floor and dishes in the sink? Our heroine is messy. Are the glasses lined up in parallel rows and the couch and loveseat form a perfect right angle? Our hero is precise and organized.

The sea scape on the bathroom wall tells us even though our heroine lives up in Wisconsin now, she misses the sandy beaches of her childhood home in Florida.

The Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, and Brad Paisley CDs tell us our hero likes country music. The weight set in the spare room and the fruits and vegetables in the fridge tell us being healthy is important to him.

Do the pictures of nieces and nephews on the end tables tell us the heroine longs for a family of her own? Or that family is important to her?

It's easy to get carried away in describing a place. We let our imaginations run wild as we create the perfect space. But don't forget, the space needs to be perfect for our character, not a magazine spread.

Even the phrasing can matter. In This Feels Like Home, the heroine never referred to her condo in the city as home. It was her house. Or her condo. Or back in Chicago. As her relationship with the hero deepened, the word 'home' was used for his apartment to show the growing connection between her and the hero. Home is a more emotional word than house: each brings different connotations.

In our stories, each and every word matters and should have a purpose.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!



  1. What an interesting blog, Debra. I think that as writers we put some of these things in without thinking about it. It's food for thought, though, and I shall definitely keep it in mind in my future writing.

    1. Food for thought is always good, right?!

  2. Great observation, Debra. I know I think about setting, but you put this in a thought-provoking (for me) way.

  3. Great timing for me on this post, Debra. In my current WIP, I've been struggling with whether or not to describe living spaces, office spaces, etc. But you're right, the details show character aspects much better than just telling the reader about our heroes and heroines.

  4. Great post, Debra. I can usually visualise my characters' homes, but tend not to describe them in great detail. I like the idea of the home telling the reader more about the character and your post has made me more aware of this for the future!

    1. I learned it because an editor commented about a description I had done of the hero's truck. She said just describing the inside is fine, but it doesn't tell us about the hero. But if there's a St. Christopher medal hanging from the rearview, now we know something. I just carried the theme over to houses! :)