Do you ever find yourself looking through the homes and the apartments in the real estate section of the paper, dreaming about what your life would be like if you lived there? Would it be better or worse to have four bedrooms and an office? Or a beautiful staircase like the one in the house above. I can easily imagine myself sitting on that front porch in the summer evenings, sipping a glass of iced tea, people watching. I mean the front walk alone is to die for! And only $1.4 Million dollars. Of course, it's situated in the Crowns Height neighborhood in Brooklyn which hasn't always been the nicest part of Brooklyn, but it's a 19th Century Victorian and whoever owns it has clearly taken care of it. According to the Corcoran web-site it has gas fireplaces, leaded and stained glass windows, bay windows and an eat-in
I have to admit I love reading about other people's homes, even in fiction. Imaging the space where the character lives adds an extra dollop to the novel, and can reveal so much about who the character is. Since most of my novels are set in Manhattan, I spend a great deal of time thinking about which neighborhood they would live in and why. Even how much rent they pay every month (this is New York so everyone talks about what they pay in rent, if they're renting)
My hero, in my WIP, lives on the Upper East Side, not in the chi-chi areas around Park Avenue and Madison Avenue, but further over on 2nd Avenue, where it's not so trendy and chic. He lives in a very small one bedroom, across the Park from the university where he teaches. Which is deliberate for him. Meanwhile my heroine lives in her parents apartment while they are away working on a cruise ship for six months in Hell's Kitchen. They live in a apartment complex that was designed for people in the Arts. Since my heroine had been living abroad for several years, she didn't have an apartment in the city when she came back to take over her parents' dance studio, so she's taking care of theirs. All her stuff is in storage, so she feels kind of in limbo right now.
I also spend a great deal of time imaginging the decor of my characters apartments even if I only use 1/10 of the information. Whether they're sloppy or neat. Do they care about their living environment or is just someplace where they sleep? What items in their homes they would reach for if there were a fire. Do they cook at home and if they do, do they use Caphalon or Martha Stewart's pots and pans? I pore through magazines like Domino and In Style homes looking for pictures that accurately depict my characters homes.
In my WIP, my hero has a battered leather sofa that he loves, even though his cat Dickens has used it as a scratching post. His walls are decorated with foreign film posters and a bust of Freud on his bookcase which is crammed full of books of all descriptions. Since my heroine's apartment doesn't reflect her taste, I have to imagine what her parents taste is like, in order to describe her apartment.
Question of the day: How much time or effort to you put in to your characters living environment? And do you surf the internet for Real Estate Porn?