There it is, one of the reasons I write fiction. (See below)
I took this picture about 4 years ago, when we were looking for a house to buy a lttle further out in the country. This one looked to be a bit too much of a fixer-upper, so we went elsewhere, but I couldn't resist taking a picture. It's in the middle of a dormant cornfield, just off Highway 55, between Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina, NC.
To tell the truth, it wasn't really offered for sale. I haven't been able to find out who owns it or what its story is.
But, sure as shootin', there's a story. Don't you just know it? I know some writer friends of mine who would have a vampire still living in it, launching out only on dark, moonless nights to seek prey. Others would re-create some kind of tragic Tennessee Williams/ William Faulkner situation, where Paw tormented somebody or some such.
My story about this house would be a bit sunnier. It was built, I have decided, when a small tobacco farmer came into a good-sized inheritance circa 1911 and decided to build a nice house for his wife and six children: four boys and two girls. The field in front of the house was once kept cropped by three sheep the family kept as pets and for grass-cropping purposes. There are fields nearby where tobacco flourished. The farmer was so successful that he was able to send his eldest daughter off to teacher's college in Raleigh in 1918. Tragically, she contracted influenza there and returned home, bringing the deadly germ with her...
Or...here's another story: A TV producer with a huge budget discovers this house and decides to fix it up. Maybe lauches a contest program called "The Next Expert Renovator." Much hilarity could ensue.
The house must have been really something when it was built. Two chimneys indicates at least two fireplaces, probably four. A huge attic with at least two gable windows. A wonderful wrap-around porch that faces the sunset, perfect for a row of rocking chairs. And sturdy. It's still standing. Developments are creeping ever closer, so I am not sure this grand old lady is long for this 21st century world.
Is there a house you are curious about? Is the likelihood of your ever going inside slim to none? Then write about it. Make up a story. Chances are excellent that the furniture you put in it, the rooms that you design and the people you populate it with are far more interesting than reality.
Is there some edifice from your past that you'd like to re-visit? A gorgeous mansion that you'd love to live in? Write about it. I always thought South Fork, the setting for the TV show, Dallas, was probably huge. Then I was able to attend a gathering at the actual house, and was disappointed. It was much smaller than I'd imagined.
It was a thrill to tour the White House, even being herded as a lowly tourist, but that famous house was a lot smaller and less impressive than I'd thought. I much prefer my imagined interiors.
I fell in love with a little house on the shore of Lake Champlain where my brother and his family lived and incorporated it into my mystery. I had spent the night inside and really enjoyed it, but I didn't know the history of the place, so I made it up. It's the backdrop of a dramatic scene between several of my characters in Death Dangles a Participle.
Is there a place where you were unhappy? It might be theraputic to write about it and make it a happier place. My high school building (now torn down) contained both happy and sad memories, but I was able to place much of the action of one of my books there, and re-invent the mood, so to speak.
To sum up, real estate is an excellent writing tool. And you don't even need a down payment.