Writing Activity: Describe The Outside Of A House


People took porches and porch time for granted back then. Everybody had porches; they were nothing special. An outdoor room halfway between the world of the street and the world of the home. If the porch wrapped around the house as the Abbotts’ did, there were different worlds on the front, side, and back porch. If you were laid up on the side porch the way the Ya-Yas were in the picture, you were private, comfortably cloistered. The side porch — that’s where the Ya-Yas went if their hair was in pin curls, when they didn’t want to wave and chat to passersby. This is where they sighed, this is where they dreamed. This is where they lay for hours, contemplating their navels, sweating, dozing, swatting flies, trading secrets there on the porch in a hot, humid girl soup. And in the evening when the sun went down, the fireflies would light up over by the camellias, and that little nimbus of light would lull the Ya-Yas even deeper into porch reveries. Reveries that would linger in their bodies even as they aged.

from Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

There isn’t much to be said about a porch itself there’s little furniture, no wall-hangings, and little to distinguish one porch from any other architecturally. So the author writes about all the people who inhabit the porch, and evokes an atmosphere via character memories.


The novel opens via the viewpoint character of a wolf, who starts in the forest then happens upon a house, taking the reader into civilisation. Wolves would not be able to describe a house in the following way, but a few details suggest a wolfish, and therefore forbidding, lens.

Notice too how Sparks takes the ‘camera’ from the porch to the inside, led by the cry of the baby, through the veil of curtains.

[The small ranch house] had been built on elevated ground above the bend of a creek whose bends bristled with willow and chokecherry. There were barns to one side and white-fenced corals. The house itself was a clapboard, freshly painted a deep oxblood. Along its southern side ran a porch that now, as the sun elbowed into the mountains, was bathed in a last glow of golden light. The windows along the porch had been opened wide and net curtains stirred in what passed for a breeze.

From somewhere inside floated the babble of a radio and maybe it was this that made it hard for whoever was at home to hear the crying of the baby. The dark blue buggy on the porch rocked a little and a pair of pink arms stretched craving for attention from its rim. But no one came. And at last, distracted by the play of sunlight on his hands and forearms, the baby gave up and began to coo instead.

The only one who heard was the wolf.

The Loop, Nicholas Evans


Header illustration: Erik Blegvad (1923-2014) Dusty and the Fiddlers by Miska Miles.