One of the things that I love to do in my free time is go visit model homes. My parents live in a bit of an upscale neighborhood that is constantly going through more and more development, so model homes are virtually everywhere around here. I actually just went to three different groups of model homes yesterday with one of my housemates- one group were homes based on the Japanese/Swedish model of space conservation and maximizing utility, another were Italian-style townhomes built in a circle rather than side by side, and the last were common ranch homes.
The thing that I enjoy most about going to model homes is the way that they make me a better writer. Each model home has been painstakingly set up by an interior designer in every room. Some have a feel of a kid-centric home. Some focus on the study on the first floor, and the incoming-baby room on the second. Some emphasize the entertainment rooms. Each of them do so with an overarching, coherent theme. They tell the story of a family who, while having their own personalities in the confines of their own spaces, also have their place among each other once you venture out into the more communal spaces of the home.
When I go to visit the model homes, I go with a specific goal in mind. Whether I do this in my head or say it out loud, I focus on what each room would be used for. What kind of situations would suit this kind of room. What kind of family would have set up this kind of house. Who bought the different accents? Are they heirlooms or something new picked out by a design-happy husband?
Sometimes, I all out turn this into a challenge. I go into a model home with a writing friend or two and take just one room, within which I must write a short story with the room in question being a main part of the story. I’ve always been a much more action and dialogue centric kind of writer- in my head, I’m much more fascinated with the way that people act and react than I ever have been with the surroundings of the people in question. It’s hard for me to completely construct out of my head different living spaces for different characters. Being able to go into model homes and get a much more grounded look at all the different ways in which fictional people can live gives me a much more extensive catalouge to choose from in my settings. Hopefully, it will help me create a much richer story-world for my reader to enter into in the novels to come.
How do you create settings? How do you visualize settings? How important is the scene setting to you, either as a reader or a writer? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.