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House designs

subtletylost

Formerly fishii
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I'm curious about how people manage to make layouts and things for where their characters live. Like if you're writing a scene in the character's house how do you keep track of where they are in the house in relation to the other rooms and such. I suppose the question stands for space ships and boats too. Do you just make it up and hope to find that you've not confused anything when you edit, or do you actually design the houses and ships and things? If it's the latter, do you do it on paper, or using some kind of computer program or website?

I'm trying to design my main character's house in my urban fantastyish story and I'm having trouble because I've never been in a house that's more than 3 bedrooms. I don't think I've ever been in a house that had more than 10 rooms including bathrooms. I've only ever been in one 2 story house. It's rather difficult to design something I know nothing about. I was just curious what other people do and if anyone has any advice or suggestions they might be willing to give.
 

Brian G Turner

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For writing about unfamiliar places, it's helpful to try and visit examples of them. :)

But the exact layout of rooms is unlikely to be important, as much as the feel of them, and what catches the eye of the character as significant.
 

Jackie Bee

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You could use good old Google to search for pictures of large houses interiors. I used this when I needed to describe a street in a town I've never been to, etc. Scroll through the pictures an pick what you like. There are detailed plans of houses online, too.
 

subtletylost

Formerly fishii
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Looking up floor plans and pictures of houses was the first thing I did. And after talking to my friend discovered that my main problem isn't knowing what the inside of the house looks like but how three millennials (one working minimum wage, one an archaeologist and the other working 60 hours a week) could possibly afford a 4 bedroom house in a city. I didn't even realize that it bothered me until trying to figure out what exactly about this house plan felt so wrong to me (I thought it was that in one scene I described the front door as opening into the living room but all the plans I found were for houses with foyers, now I realize that it just seems unreal to me that they'd have such a big house).

(for this particular story at the very least me, personally, knowing the exact layout of the house is important for when the main character visits it in a parallel universe and the layout is reversed.)
 

The Judge

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I think I've mentioned this before on Chrons, but when Dodie Smith wrote I Capture the Castle, her husband actually made a model of the castle for her!

I've not persuaded the Judicial Helpmeet to do the same** though I did once consider trying it for the castle of my Renaissance fantasy with empty cereal boxes and the like (I was a dedicated viewer of Blue Peter as a child, when it was the real Blue Peter) but we have made rough layouts of a particular bar for my SFs by taking over the living room and turning over stools and the like. And for the castle I spent days working with the floor plans of a real Italian castle, making the necessary adjustments for more rooms and some additional fixtures I needed which the original owners had been negligent enough to forget to install. I required it, so I could be sure how everything fitted together, what rooms led to another, and which rooms faced east etc. I tried using some free software, but I couldn't get it to work as I needed it, so it was all done with paper and pen/pencil, with literal copying and pasting, so I ended up with a sticky layered mess with a lot of scrawled notes and rubbings out. It did its job, though.

** his artistic skills being what they are, that's probably just as well, it would undoubtedly end up looking like one of the ruins Cromwell knocked about a bit.


Going off thread a little, I was amazed, fishii, when you said that you'd only once been in a 2 storey house, thinking you'd spent your life in bungalows. Then I wondered whether this was me misunderstanding what you meant. By two storey, do you mean only two floors, so what to a Brit would be ground floor, and one upstairs floor? Or do you mean two storeys on top of the ground floor, so two upstairs floors (which we'd call the first and second floors). My childhood home was actually four storeys -- basement (ie coal cellar), ground floor, first floor, and attic rooms. Not as impressive as it sounds, alas, as it was just part of a Victorian terrace, and the area was no longer anything like as prosperous as it once had been.
 

subtletylost

Formerly fishii
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wherever I am, probably walmart
At one point for a different story I did a terrible job at designing a 5 bedroom house and I was trying to do something similar this time around but my brain kept telling me it was wrong somehow, no matter what I tried. A model probably wouldn't help me much, I tried making one in minecraft but the scale is so weird, 1 block = 1 meter, and I'm lazy, so I never really could figure that out very well. I asked my mom for help and she just said that they wouldn't need to find a new house to live in until the kid that they're going to have was at least 4. But having 3 adults and a baby in a 2 bedroom house would get really crowded.

Two story, only two floors, actually if you include the basement then I lived in a two story house for 8 years, but since I was never allowed in the basement (there were spiders and a snake down there that we could never figure out how to get rid of and I was little so I wasn't allowed). My grandparent's house (the two-story I was remembering) had a ground floor and then a floor upstairs. It had three bedrooms, one downstairs and two up. The house I currently live in, have lived in for the last 7 years, just has one floor.
 

Loren

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Nov 5, 2015
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I'm curious about how people manage to make layouts and things for where their characters live. Like if you're writing a scene in the character's house how do you keep track of where they are in the house in relation to the other rooms and such. I suppose the question stands for space ships and boats too. Do you just make it up and hope to find that you've not confused anything when you edit, or do you actually design the houses and ships and things? If it's the latter, do you do it on paper, or using some kind of computer program or website?

I'm trying to design my main character's house in my urban fantastyish story and I'm having trouble because I've never been in a house that's more than 3 bedrooms. I don't think I've ever been in a house that had more than 10 rooms including bathrooms. I've only ever been in one 2 story house. It's rather difficult to design something I know nothing about. I was just curious what other people do and if anyone has any advice or suggestions they might be willing to give.
Search the web and you can find plenty of floorpans. Search realty sites for homes for sale to get interior pictures.

If a scene or prop in a book is going to be complicated, I use a drawing program to create a quick mockup of that building or whatever. There are free ones online that are relatively easy to use.

I have even created some 3D cartoons to help me visualize the feel of things from the characters' perspective. Some are interior rooms and another is a 3D map of five different star systems and their relative locations to each other.

Cartoon drawing done in CAD can help inspire your creativity if, like me, you are a visually oriented person. Pictures help me compose words. They can also help you if you have events that take place over different locations and you want to estimate the time it takes for characters or objects to transverse those points.

The end reader never sees those drawings, but they gain from better verbal descriptions and a reduction in conflicts when the actions moves from one location to another.
 

Jo Zebedee

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I just visualise it. Here's the story, and here's the setting, and here's the house, and here's what it looks like. Once I've done that, I don't forget the set up, somehow. Then again, my physical description tends to the mimalistic end of the spectrum, so often I don't bother with saying where they are. :D

Anyhow, the other possibility is playing with something like Minecraft?
 

subtletylost

Formerly fishii
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I just visualise it. Here's the story, and here's the setting, and here's the house, and here's what it looks like. Once I've done that, I don't forget the set up, somehow. Then again, my physical description tends to the mimalistic end of the spectrum, so often I don't bother with saying where they are. :D

Anyhow, the other possibility is playing with something like Minecraft?
You're some kind of magic then :LOL:. My first idea was to try to build the house in Minecraft, but that was horribly distracting I started building then got distracted with thoughts of my survival worlds then realized that I don't even know how big the house needs to be. So I started looking up floor plans, but very few of the ones I found had listed what size the rooms are. Then I started looking up actual houses and that was more distracting (I found a 4 bedroom 2 floor house with only 1 bathroom). Then finally I decided to ask for advice from you guys :).
 

Brian G Turner

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@fishii - do you need a specific type of building in a specific real-world location? Just that, if you do, you could look at property sales websites in that area, to get an idea of quality and price (though it won't give much on area). For the UK, http://www.rightmove.co.uk is probably the biggest property website, and lists property to rent as well as buy. And some of the listing have floorplans and measurements with them.
 

Juliana

Juliana Spink Mills. "No capes!"
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And after talking to my friend discovered that my main problem isn't knowing what the inside of the house looks like but how three millennials (one working minimum wage, one an archaeologist and the other working 60 hours a week) could possibly afford a 4 bedroom house in a city.
Where's your story set? You could google student housing rentals... Those are usually cheap!
When I was at university in London (waaaay back in the 90's) we rented a huge 5 bedroom affair in north London - it was a nasty, horrible, decrepit old thing with the most hideous wallpaper and carpeting ever, but it was affordable.
 

subtletylost

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@Brian Turner ~ Not a specific type or specific locations, the only specifics are that it needs to be two floors tall, the ground and the one above, with at least three bedrooms--preferably four, and at least 2 bathrooms.

My story's city isn't really based on any real location, the only indicator of where it is on Earth is that it's somewhere in America that is North enough that it can and does snow in November, regularly enough that no one freaks out over that kind of forecast. And there's an airport within 30 minutes of the south end of downtown.

@Juliana It's set in America--the states rather, but none of the characters are still in university. They've all graduated, or in the case of the mc dropped out, so they don't qualify for student apartments or houses. If they did this would be so much easier on them.

The whole housing thing only became a problem because the MC is going to have a baby and the house I have her and her two friends living in at the beginning of the story only has two bedrooms and is only like 1200 sq. feet, way too small for three adults to raise a kid.
 

Juliana

Juliana Spink Mills. "No capes!"
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It's set in America--the states rather, but none of the characters are still in university. They've all graduated, or in the case of the mc dropped out, so they don't qualify for student apartments or houses. If they did this would be so much easier on them.
Oh, I didn't mean specifically funded housing, I just meant the sort of dodgy cheap housing that people offer as 'student housing'... ;)

Hmm, re space, maybe they could stay there while the child was a baby, and it could add conflict to your story? Just a thought...
 

subtletylost

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Oh, I didn't mean specifically funded housing, I just meant the sort of dodgy cheap housing that people offer as 'student housing'... ;)

Hmm, re space, maybe they could stay there while the child was a baby, and it could add conflict to your story? Just a thought...
They could probably try for that kind of housing, I just don't really think they'd want to if the whole reason they're moving is to find a place they'd be happy raising a child. It probably wouldn't add much conflict to have a baby in the small house, but once she starts walking they'll need to find a bigger house and fast. I forgot to mention that there's 6 cats with them, three of them stay inside all the time. That's more a side note in the house picture though. They have a year right now to find a new house before the MC has to go back to work.
 

Ursa major

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how three millennials (one working minimum wage, one an archaeologist and the other working 60 hours a week) could possibly afford a 4 bedroom house in a city
Inheritance (if one or more of them own it); for merely occupying it, there are a number of options, including house sitting and upmarket squatting.
 

Juliana

Juliana Spink Mills. "No capes!"
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It probably wouldn't add much conflict to have a baby in the small house
Late night feedings, crying waking the others up, endless amounts of small clothes to wash taking up all laundry/drying space, baby paraphernalia that seems to spread everywhere, mother wanting desperately to catch a break and nap as the kid is sleeping but the others are keeping her up, people make noise just as baby finally sleeps... Just a few things I can think of that might go horribly wrong! But probably don't fit in with your story... I'm just pointing out that babies/small children are an excellent source of low-level conflict and tension. :)

Sorry for the thread hijack! :D
 

Juliana

Juliana Spink Mills. "No capes!"
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Sorry for double post; you said one is an archaeologist, so Ursa's house sitting suggestion might work – house sitting for a colleague who is off on an extended sabbatical?
 

ratsy

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I would suggest going to a home builder's website in the area you are setting the story and looking at new build floor plans.

I have looked at way too many showhomes in my life so I have seen them all. That would be another good plan. Go to the 'burbs on a weekend and look at showhomes!
 
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