My Characters are Homeless

That is…until I find them a place to live.

I’ve met many an author who has said that for them writing is merely taking down the movie in their head.

“Movie? You have a movie in there?” I ask.

“Yes,” they respond.

They have characters, situations, homes, clothes, transportation…all of it.

I should note these are mostly authors of historical fiction, which makes it all the more amazing. I’d love to have period clothing, horse drawn carriages, and wood fired ovens in my head when I sat down to the computer every morning. My world would be more Dangerous Liaisons and less All My Children.


My imagination is more narrowly focused. I have characters talking in my head (disturbing my sleep, making me appear spacey) that’s it. They do not have cars, homes, or sometimes even clothes. This is where my research comes in.

I shop online for clothes. That’s easy enough. Cars, too. A home, though, is a little bit different.

I have a little research quirk that I don’t share with too many people. I’ll share it here though. I shop for houses and apartments for my characters—in person.

Last week was a good example. I’ve started a book, Stirred. It will be the fourth book in my L.A. Nights, sexy contemporary romance series.LANIGHTS_FBbanner

My hero and heroine are lovely people. But until last Friday, they were lovely homeless people. In order to get them from point A to point B in a city that’s all about driving, they needed somewhere to live. So the hunt began.

In Los Angeles, a subscription to Westside Rentals is a writer’s best friend. I typically spend the better part of a day looking for places for them to live. I drive around neighborhoods. I make appointments. I see apartments. I go to Sunday open houses. I take detailed pictures and notes until I’ve found them a home.

I’m happy to report that last week’s research trip was a success. My heroine, Zoe, found a lovely month-to-month rental in Los Feliz. It’s a cute artists colony that’s perfect for her. She’ll be renting month-to-month, because she’s not planning to stay in Los Angeles. Her dad’s sick, and she’s only here temporarily. As soon as he’s well, she’ll go back to living abroad.

My hero, Max; he’s in Hollywood. It’s a small bungalow, but on his modest (for Los Angeles) metropolitan bus driver’s salary, it’s comfortable. It even has a perfect hallway that he’s converted into a workshop. He likes to repair old luxury watches and the natural light that floods the room from the yard makes the detail work of mechanical repair much easier.

Since research is far easier than writing, next week I’ll be striking out to find homes for the hero and heroine for the last book in the series. Because they live in Malibu and Ventura County, it’ll be a field trip. (Field Trip!!!) I hope to come home with brochures, pictures, and a place where my characters can lay their heads.

Dear readers, I’d love to know how you find places for your characters to live if you’re a writer. If you’re a reader, how much domestic detail do you like?

Sylvie-white-backgroundSylvie Fox is the author of In Plain SightQualified Immunity and  The Good Enough Husband. She’s also the author of UnlikelyImpasse, and Shaken from the first two books in the sexy, contemporary L.A. Nights series. Don’t Judge Me, and The Secret Widow from the Judgment series. When she’s not battling traffic on the freeways of Los Angeles, she’s eating her way through Budapest.