It’s not about the walk for me. For me, it’s about the house. I don’t know a character until I know where they live. Looking at a person’s home is sometimes the closest you can get to looking straight into their life.
Here are some things to think about:
The character of the house: whether it’s old and eccentric, with unexpected rooms hiding around dark corners; or a compact apartment tucked in among dozens of identical apartments; or a suburban sprawling mansion with rooms the size of sport fields and a hungry garage.
What is the house surrounded by? Maybe it’s on a hill where storms wail round it late at night, or maybe on a busy city street. Maybe it even has one of those terrifying gardens where everything is pruned to within an inch of its life and planted in colour coordinated rows. (It probably says quite a lot about the houses I have lived in that I find tidy things scary. Ahem.)
What is your character’s relationship to their home? Is it a place they feel comfortable bringing their friends back to? If they were to imagine their ideal house, would it be much like the one they live in? Or would it be completely different? I have one character who lives in an ultra modern designer home who’d actually rather live somewhere old and colourful and unpredictable; I have another character who completely loves her house. She lives in an ugly 70s townhouse with breeze block walls and cobwebs and not enough light, but it is full of the mountains of beloved books her family has collected over the years, stacked up in every room. She can’t imagine life without them. Which leads me to:
What is the house full of? If your character’s home is full of tidiness, whose tidiness is it? Maybe your character races home after school every day to hide her parents’ mess and vacuum the floors. Or maybe it’s her mother’s, always ready for visitors who never arrive. Or maybe your character lives in a house full of precarious piles of other people’s old stuff, televisions that don’t work and newspapers from seven years ago and cages for long dead pets. Maybe your character finds being surrounded by all these things reassuring, or maybe they make her feel like her life is out of control. Whether your character leaves much mark on the house they live in says a lot too. Some of us can live in a house almost unnoticed, while others can’t leave a room without leaving a little pile of things somewhere, coffee cups and half finished books and an abandoned hat.
What part of the house does your character spend the most time in, and why? Possibly the living room full of her little brother’s toys, mostly broken. Or a large wardrobe no one ever looks in, where she writes strange things in notebooks by torchlight. Or maybe she needs windows. Maybe she has a favourite big window she curls up next to so she can watch the world racing past.
Where do your characters live?