Thursday, July 15, 2010

Decking the Walls

In addition to getting some of our furniture delivered, we had about a week off from contractor action. In other words, our home was ours for a while.

We've got the installation date for our countertops at last. And, as I feared, this was indeed the one item that fell well outside the window the company had given us when we ordered the materials. So, instead of today, it's one week from today before we have a kitchen that looks like a kitchen. It'll still be a few more days before everything else is hooked up and usable, but I'm looking forward to having a sink. And a stove. And a dishwasher that isn't in the middle of the living area.

But the place is beginning to look and feel like home, and I think it's because I finally got out the hammer, ladder and picture hangers and decked the walls with our personal (and familiar) belongings.

I think this carries over into writing. When you're busy dealing with plot, it's easy to fill in what happens, and maybe the basics of character description. I'm not talking about what pictures are hanging on your characters' walls, or even what color the bedroom walls are. But you have to include those details that make the story "home."

Now, I'm the last person to advocate stopping the story flow for paragraphs of description. But I do think you need to consider those background bits that draw the reader into the story. The trick is to make sure they serve more than one function and add something to the scene.

Do you show your character's habits? Surroundings? Friends? What does he do in those private moments, alone with his thoughts? Or does he avoid them, preferring to hit the night life?

The following is only a paragraph, but do you "see" the character of Graham Harrigan from NOWHERE TO HIDE in this excerpt?

The note on the fridge with "coffee" underlined three times in red marker didn't lighten his mood. Ever the optimist, he peeked into the canister in case the coffee fairy had replenished his supply. Not surprised to see it empty, he finished dressing and headed for Starbucks before going into the station, making a mental note to get a pound of French roast along with his espresso.

Here, we learn that Graham likes good coffee, that he brews it at home, but shopping isn't a priority. He's also got a sense of humor.

The kind of car your character drives, and what shape it's in can "deck your walls." Wardrobe choices, food choices, banter with friends.

What about this brief selection from one of Colleen's scenes:

Colleen paid more attention to the neighborhood as she retraced her route. Moms pushing strollers and people walking dogs. Stopped for a red light, she saw a YMCA to her left, its glass walls revealing people busy on treadmills and stepping machines. Might be worth checking out. No need to get soft.

We see where she lives, that's it's a residential neighborhood, but we also find out that she considers fitness a priority. If she were a foodie, I'd have shown her noticing restaurants.

Tomorrow's the last day for my Smashwords contest. I confess I'm a bit surprised at the disparity between the number of views/downloads of Words, my free short story, and the significantly lower number of downloads of the free sample of Coping Mechanisms. If anyone wants to give me their interpretation, I'd love to hear about it. This blog is set up to accept anonymous comments, so feel free to log on as "anonymous" and let me know why you did or didn't visit the Smashwords pages, and why you did or didn't enter the contest. Was it too much trouble? Was the prize not worth the effort? I'll try to keep a thick skin, so feel free to be honest. I want to hold a contest to give away a lot of what I brought home from RomCon, and I need to know what people are looking for in a contest.

And tomorrow, in addition to being release day for Nowhere to Hide, is Field Trip Friday. I thought about skipping this week's trip and having a blog party, but decided to wait until next week. That way, I can make sure the book links are active. And, equally important, my parents are going to be in town for a long weekend, and I'll be away from the computer a lot. No, they're not staying with us, given the state of our house—they'll be in the Springs with our son (and their great-grandson), but I want to have time to organize a worthwhile bash. I'm thinking Wednesday, so mark your calendars.

Tomorrow, we're going to Wales.


Christopher Hoare said...

Hi Terry:

It looks as if you are easing slowly into house and home. We did that years ago but we never finished -- still a couple of floors to finish if ever the passion returns, LOL. I'm fine with the concrete slab showing in my den. What we need now is to begin renovations ... but ...

As long as you enjoy the home.

Chris H

Rast to be released by MuseItUp Publishing March 2011
The Iskander series – Arrival, Deadly Enterprise, The Wildcat’s Victory, The Wildcat's Burden
see links to all at –

Helen Ginger said...

Oooh, I'd love to remodel our kitchen, especially if I could wave a wand and it'd be done like magic.

Straight From Hel

Terry Odell said...

Chris, Helen - the results should be worth it, but no magic wands involved. A lot of mess, dust, and inconvenience.

Mason Canyon said...

Sounds and looks like the house is coming alone. Enjoy your parents' visit. Congratulations on the upcoming release.

Thoughts in Progress

Jemi Fraser said...

It's looking like home!

Terry Odell said...

Mason, thanks. Jemi, yes, it's getting there. The back-ordered dining chairs were delivered this morning. Nightstands are still back-ordered until August. I'm kind of growing attached to the cardboard cartons.

Terry Stonecrop said...

The house is shaping up into a home. :)

I like your sample graphs and the idea that description should add something. I'm going to read over some of mine and see if I've done that or not. Thanks again for a helpful post.

Terry Odell said...

TerryS - glad they were useful.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Terry, we've moved a lot through the years. One of the first things I do is hang pictures and paintings. Makes it feel so much more like home and more "moved in" than without, doesn't it? Good luck with the kitchen restoration. You're brave. I've enjoyed your tour, by the way.

Terry Odell said...

Caroline - I agree that pictures on the walls make a vast improvement. Glad you've enjoyed my "tour"