I can’t say what I expected when we came around the corner, but my expectation must’ve contained the idea of life. Life being noted with lights in the windows, a car in the drive, and food in the kitchen. What is life when there are no people to see? You know it when you see it.
My grandmother’s house had no real life at all. Her house stands on a corner so you can see the front yard and the back. The other day when my father drove by we saw the yard was overrun with wild plants some a few feet tall. Tree branches were down every which way. One through a window. Most windows were broken, huge shards of glass missing. Rocks and trash piled all round. The driveway was cracked and littered with debris. Weeds grew up walls. A sign from the city had been pushed into the ground facing passersby. I couldn’t read the sign from the car, but I assume it said condemned.
I don’t know who is responsible for the house now. My grandmother sold it years ago. But it was the one house I knew where nothing crazy happened. No one yelled. It was where as a child I curled up with the dog and went to sleep.
In my fiction, I write about houses. Some houses are safe havens. Others… not so much. When I write about a place, a room, the details bother me. How many details capture a room? Do you need to know the color of the walls or if the decor is colonial or modern? Does it help to know the front door faces the setting sun and sometimes the sun cuts through the window in the front door at just the right angle as to hit you in the eye? My grandmother had two arrangements for her house. In the winter the furniture went one way. And in summer the furniture was moved to another design. She didn’t want to the sun to bother her when she sat in her favorite chair to read.
How much detail does a story need? How much do you describe a place? How much do you think about how a place feels? Any famous rooms in fiction you could name? When is the place not important at all?