One of the things I used to do when I got homesick--thousands of miles away in Africa with years between my home and me--was to take a walk through my home in my mind. I found myself remembering all kinds of things that might not have come to mind if I'd tried to write them down, say, as the setting of a story.
Your memories may be sharper than you expect. Close your eyes and picture a place where you spent a significant amount of time in your lifetime: your childhood home, your first home as a married person, a vacation spot, your elementary or high school. . .get the idea? So let’s take a walk.
- Walk up on the porch and ring the doorbell. Does it ring? Chime? Buzz?
- Can you hear someone coming to answer it? Do their footsteps resound on hardwood floors, or are they muffled on carpet?
- Does the door squeal on its hinges or open silently? When it closes, is there a 'whoosh' or a hollow slam?
- Inside, is the house cool and silent or warm and full of music, talk, and household sounds?
- Have you come to a place of refuge or confusion? Whenever you enter a new place, something forms in your soul as you try to decide what kind of a place it is.
- What do you smell? Food? Gas heat? Freshly-laundered/ironed clothes and linens?How many inside doors from the front room? Where do they lead? Are they open are closed?
- As you walk through the house, does it have an open feel? Private? Mysterious? Foreboding? What makes you feel that way?
- What's outside the windows on all sides? Are the windows meant to be open, and are they? Do they give light, or do the window coverings shut out light and life as well?
- Is the furniture modern, stylish, antique, or just early-attic? How do the pieces make the room 'feel'? Are they arranged for comfort or for show? What does this say about the people who live there?
- Does the house shout its time period? Victorian? Turn-of-the-century? Twenties and thirties? Post-war?
- Remember, you're walking alone, but do you just happen to feel that maybe you're not? Why?
- Open the closets. How do the doors sound? What smell wafts out? What's hidden away in the corners?
- What's on the walls--art or family?
- Can you hear water running anywhere?
- Can you hear the heat (cooling) come on or going off? Where is the warm/cool air coming from?Do you want to stay--or go--or flee as fast as you can?
- Is there any clue as to past events that happened here? Warnings about what could happen in the future?
Tweak your questions to suit where you are--a house, an office building, a store, a school. Unless a place is brand-new, it has a history, and that history includes people. Take a notebook--or a tape recorder--along on your mind-walk. What do you remember and why? And, when you leave and close the door behind you, I'll be surprised if you don't take with you at least one idea for a scene if not a whole story!
Something like 80 years separates the pictures below. The one on the left is a picture of my father, probably around the age of 9 or 10, in front of the house he grew up in. The one on the right is a picture I took on a visit back to his hometown. I had to do a bit of "sleuthing" to find the house, but I recognized it immediately from the original photograph. How I'd love to walk through it! It appears to have fallen on hard times and likely won't survive much longer.
|Side of the house|
|The house in 2005|
|Wish I could walk through here!|