Wednesday, June 04, 2008


As you can see, the above photo is of an abandoned house.

Let me explain. Years ago, maybe as many as ten, a house suddenly appeared along a road I travel twice a week when I drive to see my mother. It's not this house but it looks a lot like it.

The land the house appeared on is part of an old homestead. Picture it. A short driveway empties into a lushly planted area. Camellias and roses and trees, all planted to frame a home but there's no longer a home there. Keep traveling past that into the wide open field behind it and that's where someone planted the "new" very old white house I speak of.

Someone had moved the old house onto the land, obviously from somewhere else. I'm sorry I didn't see it moved. I love that kind of thing. Of course, a two story house appearing all of a sudden caught my attention and so every time I drove past, I checked to see what was going on. Not a lot. Eventually a foundation was poured. That took awhile. I pictured future changes as the house, now anchored properly to the ground, would evolve into a home. But nothing else happened. Years rolled by, then all of a sudden plywood showed up nailed over doors and windows. Interesting? What now? The answer: nothing. That's it. The house sits all by itself, closed up, abandoned. No plants, no paint, no sign of life. In fact, I've never actually seen anyone near the place and the changes, small as they are, have happened at glacial speed.

So, what's the deal? Did the house get sold for a dollar to someone saving it from a wrecking ball and did that someone then move it out into the grass fields, perhaps to a site that had been in the family since before the original house burned down? Was the house itself an old homestead, moved to a new site when the land it had been built on was sold? Why did the changes stop, what happened to the people who moved it, what happened to their plans? Or is there some other mystery afloat?

Doesn't the idea of an old house intrigue you? An abandoned house? Interrupted dreams? Change of fortune? Death, divorce, mayhem? Is the house a metaphor? A stage? Is it the past or the present that arouses more curiosity?

Writing Exercise: Use the house in a bit of fiction. Tie it in with characters in your WIP or create new characters.

That doesn't appeal to you? Then how would you use this house if you were to write a story where it figured into the plot?

Still no interest in participating? Okay, what building have you come across in your life that aroused speculation and formed a launching pad for fiction? Did you then go forward and actually use it?

Use the abandoned house any way you like, don't be intimidated, don't get fancy if you don't want. I hope you'll play along.


Alice Sharpe said...

I'll go first.

When I first saw plywood had been nailed over all the doors and windows of the old house, I immediately thought of my brothers' mother (in the three books I'm plotting.) A tragedy in her life had emptied out all the emotional rooms of her soul, leaving her empty and shattered. Still there, but not there. I thought of the house as a metaphor for what had become of her, going from wiped out to boarded up and though her tragedy affects the brothers, I realized that it would be irresponsible of me not to find a way for her to pry off the plywood, as one could say, open the shutters, spend her last years with sunshine and breezes and maybe peace.

So the house became a metaphor for a woman.

Karen Duvall said...

Fun blog, Alice. You're such a writer! I mean that in a good way, in that you're so observant and extremely detailed. That's wonderful! Can I borrow some of that?

Old houses are very cool and I love your exercises. But since Mercury is in retrograde right now, I'm refraining from writing much new stuff until after the 19th. That doesn't mean I won't take you up on talking about a house I've used in a book. 8^)

In Knight's Curse, the evil society of magic users called the Vyantara have "Fatherhouses" all over the world, one in every country. The one in the U.S. is in Denver. Denver has this fantastic warehouse district that's in lower downtown, and it's become quite the trendy hotspot. The architectural design of the area is being copied here in Bend, in our Old Mill district. Cool, huh?

Lots of the old warehouses and factories that flourished at the turn of the century have been converted to condos and single dwelling homes. Very historic, very awesome looking, lots of the old material like wood and brick reincorporated in the refurbished structures.

So the Denver Fatherhouse is a converted old warehouse that's pretty spooky with its exposed beams singed by fire, authentic hard wood floors, and a basement that would give you nightmares for the rest of your life. It's atmosphere I was after, and the converted warehouse gave me that and more. I also bespelled the house make it a living character, and it sucks the life energy out of anyone who dares enter and show fear.

So there's my house story. 8^)

Paty Jager said...

She stared at the boarded up house. Memories of cinnamon, the yeasty scent of baking bread, and warm cookies from the oven brought the kitchen and her mother back to her in waves of painful longing. The love she'd recieved in that kitchen from her mother, would she ever feel that again?

Wiping the tears away with the back of her hand, she glared at the boarded window that was once her bedroom. That room held no loving memories. That room had taken her childhood away. She'd boarded up her heart after that night long ago and doubted anyone would ever be able to pull out the nails and let the sun shine again.

Fun Alice! And you are one very observant person, which makes you an awesome writer!

Lori Barber said...

It was a dark and stormy night...No, wait a minute that’s been done.

The perfect bed and breakfast business stood in wait. Why hadn’t someone snatched up the magnificent old house long ago?

Janie slid the key in the lock of the old carved door. Inside, the sun exposed the musty, dust drenched entry. Slow steps across the slate floor took her into the expansive great-room. The toe of her shoe pushed through more dust. Intricate patterned wood floors and the pastoral setting through the double set of French doors befitted any Gothic romance novel.

Would it be foolish or wise to offer full price? A favorite quote penetrated her thoughts. ‘Pin your dreams to your heart and polish them until their reality shines.’

Eager to close the deal she ran from the room straight into the arms of a stranger. The pounding of his heart played in her ear. The scent of spice mingled with the softness of his shirt against her cheek. She blinked up at him.

Dark eyes met hers. Strong, gentle hands set her two dance-step lengths from him.

“What are you doing on my land?”

Alice Sharpe said...

Karen -- You, the queen of detail, calling me observant. Now, that's a compliment.

That warehouse sounds fantastic. It was screaming to be a character in a book and you made it a real one, not just a passive one. Fantastic. It makes me want to go to Denver and look at the warehouse district. I can't wait to read Knight's Curse.

Thanks, Karen.

Alice Sharpe said...

Oh, Paty, that's so haunting. I thought I knew where you were going at first, all warm and cozy and then that moment her eyes connect with the boards across her bedroom window. Chills!

Thanks for playing along.

Alice Sharpe said...

Lori, it sounds to me as though you've just started a new book. Interesting conundrum you've created. A house that's for sale, an owner (a hunk, too) who doesn't know it's for sale... I wish there was more so I could find out what kind of mix-up has occurred and how it will get resolved.

Thanks, Lori.

Elisabeth Naughton said...


But since Mercury is in retrograde right now, I'm refraining from writing much new stuff until after the 19th.


Alice, I'm a fuddy-duddy today. I love reading all these buy my brain is fried from reworking my synopsis for book three for my editor and chatting with my agent all day about career direction, proposals, option books, contract details, timelines, etc. So I'm just going to say, you all are da-bomb and these are great!!!

(And very interesting story about that house suddenly appearing on the property!)

Karen Duvall said...

I loved the stories Paty and Lori posted. Wow! Powerful stuff. Are you guys professionals or what?

Eli, Mercury going retrograde is one of those "oh-my-god" events for writers. But it's usually only the writers of paranormal and fantasy who care. Hey, you're writing paranormal now, Missy! So, get with the program already. *snort* 8^)

If you want to know more about this tri-annual event, I talk about it today on my blog.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Duh, Karen. I'm so clueless. LOL

I'm heading over to read your blog now...

Genene Valleau said...

Chiming in late because I refused to turn on my computer until the other tasks on my "to do" list, including several hours of yard work with one of my sons helping. After twenty-plus years, the back yard is starting to look pretty spiffy! (And it will be low maintenance too.)

Alice, I love your house story! In fact, I want to know where it is so I can go see it. And I love the story premises you ladies came up with!

Like interesting faces, I keep pictures of interesting houses out of magazines to include in my stories. SONGS OF THE HEART included an old Victorian house that my heroine inherited from her grandmother. In addition to holding cherished memories of her grandmother, remodeling that house helped her grieve for her grandmother as she fulfilled her grandmother's dream to restore the old house.

After the hero came back into her life, the heroine tore out walls and started remodeling another room to try to purge him from her life. Luckily, that didn't work or I wouldn't have had a finished story. LOL!

This same Victorian house is featured in the other two connected stories that will be released in December and February 2009,

I love to see houses moved also. Ironically, the house I lived in when my oldest son was born "followed" us. The road where it was located was widened and it was moved onto a lot about a block and a half away from where I now live. We watched them move it the last few blocks. Very interesting!