What is home? What "says home" to you? What does "home" mean?
I came across this link
on Twitter, and the moment I started reading it, I knew I'd have
to talk about it. Here's a quote from Melissa Crytzer Fry's post:
… what defines it? Grandma’s old farmhouse? The whirr of traffic
buzzing past the highway in front of your childhood home? Pepsi in a
glass bottle from the upright dispenser in Uncle Bob’s auto shop, tugged
from its individual, circular cubby behind the swinging glass door?
The bleating horns of cabs in front of your urban apartment? The aroma
of the Italian bakery on the corner? Family dinners around a bonfire?
The dusty smell of soaked creosote bushes after a desert rain?
I love about this post - and about the comments that follow it - is
that it gets people writing down the sensory perceptions that they
associate with this highly emotional concept. Because that's what "home"
is. It's a fundamental emotional concept that we've learned, and once
we've established it, it continues to exist at our core. As Melissa and
her commenters remark, sometimes the concept of home can be expanded, or
can be associated with more than one location. What she also points
out is that it's fundamental to a writer, and can have enormous
influence on a writer's stories.
What I'd like to point out is that it's not just fundamental to a writer.
It's fundamental to every character in your story. Do you feel
different when you're away from home? More scared? More free? Sure - and
so will your characters. Furthermore, the stranger your characters are,
the more unexpected their concept of home may be. When Bilbo wants to
comfort himself, he thinks about teatime at his home in the hobbit-hole.
Frodo thinks of the Shire too - and the contrast between their
emotional roots and the adventures and terrors they're going through add
an amazing amount of dimension to the stories we read. Mind you, if it
were me, I'd like to know what Legolas and Gimli think of as home,
too... and Gandalf. Why not?
Particularly if you're
getting into a character's head, think about "what means home" to this
person. Maybe they don't have a home. But if they don't, does that mean
that "home" turns into an idea that other people push on them, something
that causes them anger? That knowledge is still valuable.
Crytser Fry mentions that there are writers who write only stories that
occur in their own home settings. When we write science fiction and
fantasy... um, we're not doing that. But that doesn't mean we can't
learn from what those writers accomplish. Take a look at how the
commenters in this post speak of their own homes (this ties back to my
post Interviewing Characters? Interview Yourself!).
Your human characters will likely have a home that they think about in a
very similar way, and which they compare to their current experiences.
Even your alien or fantasy-race creatures probably have a concept of
home. If you can capture it, and capture how your characters think about it, then it will bring depth and realism to even the most far-out speculative fiction.
It's something to think about.