A long time ago, I penned a peculiar short fiction about a house with a human personality who reacts to a stranger entering uninvited. She – the house is female – is empty only for the fact that a human does not own her.
Now Freudians might scoff that the writer clearly let slip some hidden meanings that are not so well-hidden, however – let me finish the story of the story before judgement:
The story begins with the house noticing a stranger across the street from her. Her initial response is to be afraid yet this man is no threat to her. He doesn’t break or break into anything. He is only a visitor who enters her house much like a beautiful song can enter the ears without need for an invitation or introduction. He, this song, settles by her fireside and takes a moment to rest his weary soul there.
And there it is! This story is about how a particular song had graced my ears once. That’s it. That’s all. I swear. I wanted to use fiction as a unique way to describe how we can feel so familiar with an artist, even though we have never met, simply by experiencing that person’s artwork.
Since I chose fiction as my medium, I didn’t want to take a direct approach. Go figure. I decided to build a metaphor around this experience.
The development of the fear in this story began when I separated the house’s character from myself and the idea. This is a creative writing method I often use to let my character be her own character and thus give the story a chance to grow in unanticipated ways. Boy, did it ever. Being a house, I instinctively made her more domesticated and thus more suspicious of strangers unlike lovers of art who are a little more free-wheeling with the unknown.
I realize my biggest mistake with this story. Without knowing immediately that the main character is the house, the tone of the story can be very creepy instead of very curious. This was the opinion of a friend who I had critique the piece. At the time, I brushed him off as closed-minded. Now I realize that he must have thought the main character was a human woman being stalked and invaded by a maniac and then becoming complacent about it. Totally not what I meant.
If I were to fix the story now it would be a whole new fiction influenced by the person I am today. And I still love the original intent and moment of this story so I will leave it in the past but with the added disclaimer: the main character is the house! And it’s a metaphor for crying out loud!
I heartily invite you to take a moment to enjoy the song, if not the story. The song was Anthony Hamilton’s Do you Feel Me? A very pretty, quiet and soulful tune. He (as in the song — not the artist!) still sleeps peacefully in a special place in my heart.
Fiction is dangerous! But let it. Let it make this writer be more careful and more precise. Let me be misunderstood about something that is meaningful to me so that I can get to a better meaning with another human being. This is a practice worth carrying over to things other than fiction-writing.
Another interesting note: the confusion related to this short also illustrates the stark difference in the way art and real life deals with strangers and strange ideas. When we experience a stranger through their artwork we are more open to letting them in; when we experience a stranger on our doorstep, we are less inclined. Reality makes this difference so sadly wise.
Link to song:
Side note on the The Treachery of Images by René Magritte https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images