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Towards the beginning of my story, my character is forced to leave home. I'm hoping this scene will be rather eventful and emotional and specifically don't want it to be meaningless to the reader (as it happens early on in the story). My question is two-fold:

  • Is it a good idea to try and make my readers feel attached to the character's home in order to increase the emotion of the moment?

  • Is spending a little more time describing the character's home and its surroundings a good way to accomplish this?

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    Maybe go into the emotions of your character as he/she is torn away from the place of birth... – Bookeater Oct 24 '15 at 21:38
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    Also, if this is the start, you can always flash back later to get some of the emotional moments you're looking for instead of cramming it all in the first chapter or so. – Thom Oct 26 '15 at 11:26
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I think the key is how you and the character define home, and how that relates to the average reader's idea of home.

If "home" is simply the house, you'll want to create an emotional connection to the place that feels like a severe break. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to describe the color of the paint or the type of moulding. On the other hand, worn carpeting that indicates well-trodden paths from point A to point B can speak volumes about the character and his/her place in the home.

If "home" includes the familial relationships, you'll want to show what those mean to the character at the time of the rift. This is more about showing the pain of the break and the trajectories it sends the main character down.

Ultimately, this break from home should influence and affect the character throughout the story, either diminishing in power as a new life is lived or increasing in power as the pain gets too strong to bear.

If you're interested in reading stories containing descriptions of homes that relate directly to the characters, check out Balzac (particularly Eugenie Grandet or Pere Goriot) or Bleak House by Dickens. Gravity's Rainbow has very interesting descriptions that create a great sense of place and character and Joyce's Ulysses unites Bloom with his locales very nicely. (These last two don't necessarily have an emotional impact, though.)

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Is it a good idea to try and make my readers feel attached to the character's home in order to increase the emotion of the moment?

This depends on the story. Why do you want to increase the emotion of this moment? Are these emotions something important to the story, something that drives the plot forward or deepens the character? If so, then it is absolutely a good idea to include them. Finding out why you want to include something can often tell you if you should.

EDIT: Upon rereading your first question, I realize you may be asking if making your readers feel attached to the house is a good way to increase the emotion of the moment. My answer is that it certainly can be, if done right. See the below to see what I mean. Getting the reader attached to things is the whole idea behind stakes, something every novel needs.

Is spending a little more time describing the character's home and its surroundings a good way to accomplish this?

Once again, it depends. I think Fell has a great point in his answer, which I will quote here for convenience:

This doesn't necessarily mean you have to describe the color of the paint or the type of moulding. On the other hand, worn carpeting that indicates well-trodden paths from point A to point B can speak volumes about the character and his/her place in the home.

That is a great example of using the physical house to describe the emotions of the character. Remember, your goal when your character leaves his home is to increase the emotion of the moment. Simply describing the house isn't going to do that, especially not in a short time. Describing how the character feels about the house, though, is completely different. You can easily describe specific objects that evoke memories in the character, for example.

Focus on the emotional, not the physical.

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