Writing Architecture


My son started shooting a commercial for Maine Cabin Masters today, which made me think about writing about architecture. Needless to say, I really enjoy writing about it.

What is it about architecture that I, and so many other people, love so much? I can’t get enough of all the real estate reality shows, especially the ones listing pricey properties in New York and Los Angeles. I find that they are very instructive when writing about the rich and famous. When walking through the streets of Manhattan, I have tendency to stare up at all the expensive condos and wonder what they might look like inside.

When writing about homes and various buildings in my novels, I have a tendency to over do it when describing them. Finding the right balance between description and action seems a difficult balancing act for me, because I really enjoy all the specific details of these fascinating structures. I often wonder if people want more description or less when it comes to the homes my characters live in. What suffices? A few lines? A paragraph? Maybe more description of a particular house might be necessary if the home is integral to the plot. Anymore than a paragraph seems excessive to me.

We have some wonderful homes and buildings in Maine. In my current novel, the opening scene takes place in the Custom House located in the Old Port. If you haven’t been inside, it’s a stunning building with a long and rich past. It’s built like a fortress, but the inside has the most amazing details that beg for explanation. I wanted so badly to describe every aspect of it in my novel, especially the part of it once being a jail, that I initially overwrote the scene. But for the sake of relevancy, decided to use restraint when I went back and edited it.

I also used a pricey, waterfront home in Cape Elizabeth that’s been for sale for a long time. I always drive past it slowly, admiring it, wishing I had the money to buy it out from the owner. But six mil for a house, I cannot afford. It’s amazing how many details one can get from online real estate companies. Virtual tours allow the viewer to walk through every room and see every specific detail, from custom molding to built-in bookshelves. You can even go out on the back patio of this house and see the ocean below. As a writer, I find these sites invaluable as writing tools. Not only that, but these sites give very description details about the character of the house, the style, and all the special details built into it.

Much of another novel takes place in West Hollywood, California, and in the house of a famous actress. Again, the real estate sites proved invaluable to me, as did Google Maps, which allowed me to see all the commercial buildings located along the major arteries. Another tool I used was YouTube. I don’t know how many videos I watched of people cruising through the West Hollywood hills and past all the expensive homes hidden up there and overlooking downtown LA. It gave me a better feel for the geography of the area when it came to writing about it.

I love writing about architecture. Hope you like reading about it, too. Too much of a heavy hand can take away from the mystery and plot. Not enough and the reader is left wanting. Give me some feedback about how much detail you think is necessary when reading a thriller novel with descriptive passages about architecture and characters’ homes. Any input would help.

Have a great week!

About joesouza

I am a writer of crime novels
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4 Responses to Writing Architecture

  1. matthewcost says:

    Nice article! Myself, I like to keep my description of people and place very succinct but memorable. Maybe one or two comments about an incredibly intricate and ornate molding to give the essence of the elegance.

  2. jselbo says:

    I love to “see” the place on the page – a bit of history even too – it enriches character and the readers enjoyment (at least this reader’s). Thanks for the reminder.

  3. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    Maybe if we all chip in, that Cape Elizabeth house can be a writing retreat. 😉

  4. kaitcarson says:

    Real Estate Junkie here, too! I love all those shows and now I’m going to look up the listing for that Cape Elizabeth house. Living vicariously is such fun – and you don’t have to pay the property tax 🙂

    I do like to read detail nuggets about homes in books. It’s seems that one fact can bring an entire structure to life in the reader’s mind.

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