author, creative writing, writing

World Building: Houses and Homes

Good morning writers and world builders. I hope you’ve all had a fantastic week.

I wanted to spend some time this week focusing on world building, as I continue to work on my novel writing and piecing my story together. I’ve spoken a little about world building before, with blog posts on how to choose the perfect setting and advice on city settings in particular.

Today, I’m going to speak about the importance of houses and homes in your story. The concept of ‘home’ fascinates me. It means so many things to different people, and that’s why working out where or what your characters call home is so important. I hope some of the discussion below will give you something to think about.

The difference between house and home
When you ask people where they call home you’ll receive a multitude of answers. Some will give you their current address, or mention the home they grew up in. Some will tell you the name of their town or even the whole country. Some may even say, “I live here, but for me home is here.” We all know the famous expression “home is where the heart is” and so, for many, home really is anywhere in the world, as long as their loved ones are there. So, what I mean is, while most people have a house (or apartment, caravan, bungalow, etc…) it might not be the physical house that they see as home. It could be more than that, or not that at all. Either way, it is important that you know what each character defines as home, as this will be an important way of shaping them.

Using the home to build your setting
Where do your characters live? Above, I mentioned some common examples of human habitat. Houses, apartments, caravans etc…But your choice of character home can really help develop a reader’s idea of the setting. Because your characters might live in a cave, a wooden shack, a shelter built from sticks and mud. They may live in spaceship, a pirate ship, a castle. They may live on the streets. Whatever you choose, you can build a real sense of environment by describing a character’s home, and this can really help you build your setting.

Home as an insight into character
Like no two people are the same, no two homes are the same. Two identical houses, built to identical plans on the same street, will still be different, and that is down to character. Is the house messy or obsessively tidy? Is there comfortable, colourful furnishing or a more practical, minimalist approach? Is there artwork on the walls or no sign of personality? The way characters live is a real insight into their personality, and the things that are important to them. What is it, for them, that makes a house a home?
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Home as a place of conflicting emotion
I think we can all agree that home should be a place of comfort. A place to feel safe, surrounded by things and people you love, a place of security. But for some home is a place to be afraid, a place of bad memories or bad experiences. Some people dread going home after school/work or choose to stay out all night rather than face it. Your characters’ relationship with home is another great way to build atmosphere and back story. Is home a place they love or hate? Find comfort or fear? This relates again to home meaning different things to different people, and can make for really interesting plot points.

Behind closed doors…
The home can be full of secrets, making it a great setting in novel writing. What goes on behind closed doors could be completely unexpected compared to the way the characters or home is portrayed to passers by, to friends, to other relatives. Home is typically a private space, so what happens there can be hidden away. A lot of thrillers and mysteries in particular use the home to create tension, atmosphere and conflict.

What are your thoughts about houses and homes in regards to novel writing? Does your story focus on home in particular, or not all? Please comment your thoughts below or contact me here any time. I love to hear your thoughts and ideas, and you always inspire me when you get in touch.

So until we speak next,
Keep writing,


16 thoughts on “World Building: Houses and Homes”

  1. I usually find that I need to think through the actual layout of a place (home or even a public space) so that I can move my characters around in it. If I’m not picturing the layout, and conveying it to my readers, they can’t figure out where people are when they do things. I want the reader to feel comfortable walking around the space with the character, knowing what they will find if they turn left from this spot.

    But, then, as you say, that brings in the elements of how the characters use that space and for what purposes. Do they linger in common areas with others in the household, or do they seek their own personal hidey-hole for quiet and privacy?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great point! It is definitely important to make sure the reader’s are able to follow the story and its setting, and know where the characters are within a space. And definitely it is insightful to know where a character prefers within the home. Thank you for adding these points, and for reading πŸ™‚ x


  2. Great post! The novel I’m working on is primarily set at a summer camp, but the protagonist is from the Kansas farm country. I’ll have to keep this post in mind when I start editing. I definitely want to sketch out the summer camp, for sure, so I can properly orient my readers to certain places. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like to plan the layout to get an idea when I’m writing a scene in a house, but have to be careful about how much or how little I describe. One beta reader told me to be more spacial because they couldn’t understand the rooms of the house, while another told me having too much detail about the rooms was slowing down the pace. It’s all a frustrating balancing act, but if you get it right, the reader should feel as comfortable (or as uncomfortable if that’s the intention) about the house as the characters do.

    Liked by 1 person

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