The Making of a Novel: Set Decoration

I've been feeling lately as if some of the scenes I'm writing are too vague. I'm missing a tangible sense of the rooms my characters exist in, and the things they interact with on a daily basis. What I need is a little set decoration. So today, I spent my writing time on the hunt for buildings, houses and rooms, as well as the things inside them -- typewriters, couches, coffee makers. Here are 5 places I searched:

Google Images. Obvious, I know, but what an amazing resource. It's the perfect place to start. I peered into the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, the lobby of the Waldorf, a 1950's suburban kitchen. This site features houses from TV shows and movies. It's so much fun to browse -- and you can see how the right house can make a huge difference in the feel of a story.

The Set Decorators Society of America. To get a sense of what a pro does when they're decorating a set, check out the website of this organization. It's incredible how much work goes into something that goes by in the flash of an eye. Novelists need to take the same kind of care -- but at least we don't have to go out and acquire the stuff. (Want more resources for set decorators? Here's a great list from Western Connecticut University.)

A Brief History of Typewriters. I love digging into the kinds of everyday tools my characters might have used. Imagine how different your life would be if you wrote on a portable typewriter, an electric one, a notebook? Figure out what your characters are doing every day, and research the tools they do it with.

The library. That's right! I brought home a fat stack of historical picture books. The Internet is fantastic, but really there's nothing like wondering through the stacks of the library, hunting down books, striking gold. I worked with a super smart and engaged librarian, and loved it. It also gave me a chance to test out my story. When I uttered the words, "I need to know what the room was like where they held the McCarthy trials," the librarian beamed. "Cool!" she said. And her smile made me think that it was. I'm going to sit down today and tomorrow and page through all those books to see what I can see.

I didn't write a word today, but I'm so invigorated!