Fear in Writing: Empty Houses

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Empty Houses

We are childless for the weekend. My parents and in-laws so graciously offered to watch our son and daughter until my family drives out for Thanksgiving, so we have the quiet and the freedom that can only come with being childless.

But that is not what I mean by "empty houses."

Yesterday my husband and I spontaneously(freedom!) stopped the car to take in one our favorite hobbies: model homes. This was our kind of subdivision, million+ dollar homes with all the trimmings. The kind of place we get enjoyment (without guilt) from critiquing.

Nothing seemed out of place. The lot was filled with cars. The signs were accurately marked with realtor-in-residence times. The yards were well-manicured and driveways roped off. But the doors were locked.

We tried the next model, a soaring, white brick home-turned-clubhouse. The heavy oak door creaked open. No warmth greeted us. No sound but the echo of our own breath and the continuing creak of the door.

I won't spoil the rest by describing the barely verbal, hoodie-clad golf "pro" who came to the door, but the developer was bankrupt. The houses built and sold won't resell any time soon. Those warming families are a made a little colder by the empty lots on all sides.

This is happening all over the country, but that is not my focus. My focus is the setting: what a setting! What other settings have inspired you lately? Whether it is circumstance or a particular place, please share.


  1. Oh, NC is rife with broke developers right now!

    I like messing around with photography, which I'd do a lot more of if I had the time. The settings that tend to inspire me are really atmospheric---rundown downtown areas, deserted barns, etc. I also take pictures of interesting looking people (sometimes at my peril!)

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. What a sad story.

    I've been experimenting with Steampunk Victorian England. I did quite a bit of web surfing of both steampunk items and England at the time. Thank goodness for the internet!!

  3. Elizabeth - you are right about photography evoking emotion. I especially love the image of the deserted barn!

    Jemi - I had to look up "steampunk" but I am glad that I did. I didn't realize to how much of it I've already been exposed. Did you know there is a Steampunk Magazine? Very interesting! Thank you for broadening my mind. I look forward to reading more from you.


  4. I don't know if old and abandoned or new and abandoned is more creepy for a setting. I like both. Your bankrupt developers reminds me of some buildings I saw outside Bangkok. It was a small city of skyscrapers built when the Thai economy was booming (in the 90's I think), but the country fell on hard times and no one could afford to buy them or live there. Seeing these massive, empty towers rising out of rice paddies, plastic sheeting waving in the wind from some,is an eerie sight.

  5. Lorel-I think what struck me as interesting this time is that it was new AND abandoned. You just don't usually see those two together. The portrait you paint certainly sents shivers! I like tha combination of industry and agriculture, past and present; and the idea that the one most linked to the past and nature survived. Thank you!


  6. That would be creepy! All you needed was a steady, empty wind rolling a piece of sage brush across the deserted street. :) You certainly have an eye for detail.

    You do an excellent job of illustrating how atmospheric settings can be all around us.