Creativity tip: go to an open house

Here’s a fun tip for the weekend.

If you are stuck for an idea, go and take a tour of a house that’s for sale. The best are houses that are open to anyone who wants to look. While in the house, examine it for clues about the people who live, or lived, there. Are they happy? Do they have children? What kind of taste do they have? What are they trying to hide from you?

Walking through someone else’s house can be like living someone else’s life for a moment. This change of perspective can provide you with topics, characters and visual stimuli. Not to mention it could provide the setting, and possibly a plot, for your movie or screenplay. I sometimes draw a quick map of a location that I might want to use at some point in the future. (Don’t do this in front of the realtor or they might think you’re coming back to steal.)

I remember one house I toured, the owner, a life-long bachelor, had recently died, that had a basement full of unopened boxes of model train supplies. There were tiny houses, cars and engines that had never been touched. Most were still wrapped in the same shrink-wrapped plastic they had been wrapped in at the factory. I asked about them and the real estate agent said, “Well, the family said that he always wanted to start building model train sets like he had when he was a kid, but he never had the time.”

Why make up details when they are right there in front of you?

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