Seeing Through Open Windows

Posted: January 19, 2012 in For writers
Tags: , , , , ,

I think it would be great fun to take photographs of what can be seen through open windows.  Let’s ignore the fact that it’s probably illegal and definitely an invasion of privacy.  Pretend we’re looking into doll houses.  What would we see? 

I do this a lot when I’m writing my mystery stories.  Even if the description of the home doesn’t make it into the story, it still plays an integral role in helping me understand my characters.  Here’s an example….

In the story I’m writing now, the person who is murdered is a middle aged woman, Megan Medusa Myers, about 65, retired as a head librarian at a local college.  She lives alone, but still reveres the memory of her late husband.  She talks to him daily, and refers to him in the present tense.  Does he still “live” in the house?  Will we see a shrine to him?  Does she set the table with a place for him every evening?  Does his coat still hang on the peg by the back door?  Are his clothes still hanging in the closet?  I think they are.

Megan is a rather obnoxious woman, fond of her own voice, someone who manipulates every conversation, who needs to be the focus of attention.  Her daughter comes into town to clear out the house and put it up for sale.  What will she encounter?  I think Megan is a bit of a hoarder.  Neatly so, but with cartons of materials stacked up the spare bedroom.  She keeps every letter she’s ever received.  Everything is neatly catalogued and filed appropriately. Old habits die hard.  She spent her adult lifetime as a librarian, after all.  Megan resists change, so it would make sense that she is building a history of her life this way.

Her decor is rather fussy and over done, just as she was in life.  It’s as if she were overcompensating for every deficiency she saw in her life, but without the good taste needed to pull it off successfully.  It looks artificial somehow.

She’d be a person lacking a green thumb, so there wouldn’t be anything living in this house.

There would be an odd absence of books, though.  She always hated her vocation, having been forced into it by her father.  She’d retain the habits of a librarian, but without the love of reading.

Megan was a women who inserted herself into everything, every committee, every occasion, so the walls of her house had pictures of her with every notable person she came across.  There would be a picture of her with the mayor, the governor, the senator and with any second rate actor who came to do summer stock at the local fine arts center.  She also framed any letters of appreciation she had received during all the years she had volunteered on her precious committees.

I think her house would be rather somber inside.  Quiet.  Not too many signs of life.  Except there would have to be discordant splashes of bright color here and there.  She was trying to assert herself, after all.

The more I try to describe the house the more I’m aware of her chief personality trait.  Megan is a person who had been forced to live her life by the rules set up by the men in her life.  She spent her later years trying to be her own person, without knowing what that would be like.  She was forcing people to accept this image of her, without success in their minds, or even in hers.  She was lonely, dissatisfied, wanting more.  And her home would reflect that.

I think what we would see through her open windows would be quite sad.  That’s the challenge of the story, too.  Here is a woman people avoided, but who really wasn’t a bad person, so they felt sorry avoiding her.  She wanted love but went about it in all the wrong ways.  Everyone wanted her gone, but not dead, so they struggle with their feelings as the story unfolds.  It’s going to be a great story with plenty of drama and good action.


Read the preview of my new book, an Alice Anne  mystery:  “The Banker’s Murder List.”

  1. boyalasco says:

    I love the way u write your story and i feel sorry for megan for her loneliness

  2. can’t wait to read this one… sounds like my sort of book. 🙂

  3. Nice emotional way of writing.

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