Tuesday, December 27, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

Kate Burns

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day!

Today, I listened to some holiday tunes. Today being Boxing Day, I have, for most of my life, referred to them in my head as 'leftover carols'. Like the turkey dinner, the tunes are nostalgic and sweet the day after. With the fresh edge of anticipation removed, there's no dressing for eating leftovers... I love the way a piping hot turkey dinner mellows into a sloppy toasted sandwich eaten slowly away from all family while wearing slippers and jammie pants. There's no dressing for dinner, no standing on ceremony.

One of the songs that caught my ear today was "There's No Place Like Home (For The Holidays)". It got me thinking about home. To me, home is like that leftover turkey in the fridge. All the decorations have been admired, now there's a mess of tumbled gifts and wrapping to set off the look. It's humble, it's familiar. In the great gentle letdown after Christmas celebrations, it's even... boring.

We often think of home as boring, don't we? Asked to describe your living room, I'll bet 90% of you would simply say, 'it's a mess.' It's much easier to describe someone else's living room. Other living rooms are exotic. Designer. Chic. Homey. Home? Mess. How many of us, if we go for an evening walk, can resist peaking into our neighbours' windows (from a non-stalkery socially acceptable admiring distance, of course)?

In writing, there is a tendency to do that as well. It's tempting to set your novel in a place like Monaco, New York, London... those places sound interesting. And they are interesting.

But so is your location. Your home, your town, your neck of the woods. To your reader, your setting is like sneaking a peek through someone else's living room... and their kitchen, their woods, their customs, and their skeleton closets.

So, dear writers... if you are googling New York or Egypt and attempting to write 'from' there, make sure that it is integral to your plot and characters, and don't lose sight of that piece of overlooked exotica...


Happy writing!
Kate Burns

PS: No Wikipedia articles were harmed in the formation of this random thought jumble.

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