Sunday Writing Exercise 0 Comments

Sunday Writing Exercise

Space as character / Safe as Houses

 

We writerly folks spend a lot of time talking about what makes well-rounded characters. (Hopefully we also spent a lot of time actually writing them as well.) Less often do we proselytise on the importance of a well-rounded setting. In film and video games, often design comes before character. But there is middle ground: space can be character. This exercise is to develop that skill in your writing.

Close your eyes and return to the house you grew up in. (If you still live there, that’s okay too.) Grab your pen, and take yourself on a written tour from the driveway to the front steps, and through into the house — but take note of things that became habit. What was the trick to unlocking the front door? Was there a scuffmark in the hallway where you always took off your shoes after soccer? What was the house’s first smell, when you opened the door after the house had been closed up all day? Travel all the way to the back verandah or garden or dusty concrete path. Visit every room, even the ones you weren’t allowed in.

Your tour will have evoked some old feelings. Go back through the house and add in those emotive details. Was there one room that always gave you the shivers? Did the gas oven seem to have a life of its own? Maybe the sun fell through your bedroom window in a way that always made you feel safe waking up. Basically, get some personification up in that building. This way, even if you haven’t described the precise colour of every wall or the brand of the kitchen utensils, your house will have started to feel like one of those well-rounded characters we so often focus on.

Repeat the exercise, revisiting your first sharehouse or the place you stayed as an exchange student in Japan. Then, start inventing houses like you invent characters — and, for the purpose of the exercise, let the houses always be empty (cats excepted).

 

Bonus exercises:

* Trawl through real estate listings and use the photos supplied as the basis of your exercise. Extra bonus points if you lurk in open homes taking notes.

* Check out a video game called “Gone Home”. Whatever you think of the game itself, its lovingly rendered 1990s-era house, which you explore alone to solve a family mystery, is good fodder for an exercise like this.

 

by Zenobia Frost

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