What makes a house (or apartment, loft or some other domicile) into a home? Is it the people you come home to? The memories you make there? The stuff on the walls? A combination thereof? Or something else?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as I’ve been dismantling my house and preparing to move to a new place – and a new living arrangement. Starting Saturday, little miss Lilah (my rescue pup) and I will no longer be bachelorettes as we’ll be residing with my boyfriend and his dog. I’m very excited about this move and being able to share a space with my partner. This space is a new place for both of us, so we’ll be creating our home together, starting with a very blank slate.
In preparation for this move, I’ve been selling/giving away things and generally just purging my belongings and getting rid of things I no longer need or want. Right now, the boxes are full and the walls and shelves are bare and my house, surprisingly, looks very similar to how it appeared when I took a tour and decided to rent it.
Clearly I should not be surprised that my house looks very bare and similar to how it did when I moved in. But, for some reason, this really struck me. When I moved into my house, I didn’t anticipate living there for long. I also was very sad. My life had changed dramatically and, though I had chosen the path, I was still mourning what I’d left behind. Since then, my life has blossomed in ways I only hoped and dreamed it would and I filled those walls of that tiny house with happiness and joy. My possessions helped me put my mark on the house and over time, it became my home. And now, it’s strange and intriguing to think about how I molded my life—a new life really—within this space that now looks so…blank.
So, how does this relate to writing and our characters? Well, have you ever thought about how much of our “stuff” makes our place of residence a home or becomes a part of our identity? Another way to add some level of complexity to your character is to think about the things that he or she has in his/her home. What things does your character hold onto and why? Is your character someone who doesn’t rely on things? If so, why?
In many stories, specific objects usually play some sort of larger role, either serving as a symbol or making a statement about the character who values it/interacts with it. Having a talisman that they cling to is very realistic and something we all do (or at least most of us) in our own lives.
Moving is also an interesting, albeit minor plot point, that could actually be played up in the proper context. It could be a major part of the story and have a heavy influence on a character. It could serve to reveal something about the character to the reader and/or to the character him/herself.
When I think about the role moving has played in my own life, having moved for both happy and sad reasons and having seen others do the same, I understand how dynamic of a plot point it could actually be in my writing.
It’s funny how our possessions, and our places of residence too, become a part of our identity. It sort of sneaks up on you and you don’t realize it until it’s time to move or get rid of things. I used to think I was good at keeping my mass of possessions down to a manageable size. But, as the places I’ve lived in have gotten bigger, so has my stash pile. Purging my life over the past month-and-a-half has been a really good lesson in both how I live and in giving me new things to think about as I create new characters and envision their lives.