Thursday, September 10, 2009

BACKYARDS


On the train to Toronto, I noticed backyards.

There is great diversity in backyards.


1) Full of flowers, shrubs, gardens, paths
2) Completely barren, grass mostly gone
3) Full of garden decorations-like windmills, Dutch boys, animals etc
4) Full of playground equipment
5) Full of spare parts: tires, car parts, metal things
6) The remnants of an earlier garden, now dead
7)Full of various things for animals: doghouses, chicken coops, runs, etc.
8. A swimming pool that takes up most of the room.
9. A huge garage, deemed more important than the rest.
10. A place for all the things that have no other place: a hodgepodge

Fiction doesn't often describe backyards. What kind of backyard would you most likely put in your writing?

28 comments:

Fleur Bradley said...

Never thought about it like this, but backyards say a lot about the inhabitants of the house. I'm plotting a novel now where the backyard was once full of bodies-endless ways this could affect the people in the house. Fun to write about.

George said...

I'd probably put the most famous backyard in the world in my story: where that girl was held for 18 years without the cops figuring it out.

pattinase (abbott) said...

God, yes to both of these. I never thought of a backyard as a prison or cemetery but it often is. A dog on a chain, for instance, aside from a girl. The Bronte's backyard was a cemetery and the moors, both enough to make you write dark novels.

Deb said...

I'm not a writer and I hate to be ghoulish, but George is right on the money. Anyone who is writing in the crime/thriller genre has got to be thinking about how they can work in a backyard that can hold captives undiscovered for two decades. (I hope law enforcement and the parole board are looking into that right now too.)

On another note, I believe backyards (as opposed to homes of the wealthy which always have "grounds") are a relatively new phenomenon--along with the rise in home ownership and the gradual fencing off of commonly-held land.

Dana King said...

I'm with Fleur. I'd use a backyard to characterize, so it could be anything. Your point is well taken, though; now that I think about it, I can't remember the last time I mentioned a back yard.

David Cranmer said...

I would go with the well manicured, everything looks beautiful, and in its place backyard. But all kinds of hell is going on in the house. Like David Lynch's Twin Peaks.

pattinase (abbott) said...

TWIN PEAKS, perfect. DURHAM COUNTY used the overhead shot a lot, upscale houses topped by nasty electric towers.

Dorte H said...

A thriller backyard.

Late afternoon, the sun is setting. An unkempt backyard with an empty swing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Okay. That's going to be my next flash challenge. Describe a backyard and set a story in it. That empty swing is chilling. I think I saw that movie.

Kent Morgan said...

I could never use my boring backyard, but I admit it does look much better than it did last week after spending most of the long weekend cleaning it up by removing plenty of weeds and putting some rocks along the bottom of my neighbour's new fence. According to the media, I live in one of the nicer areasof my city, but no one ever drives down the back lanes and checks the backyards. Just in my block I'm sure some of the yards would be fodder for a story.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ours is wall-to-wall flowers thanks to my husband. If it were mine, well, let's not go there.

Dorte H said...

A backyard flash challenge sounds great :D

In fact, I think I have seen empty swings in several films + some commercial recently.

Charles Gramlich said...

A big backyard, mostly wild. That's my favorite.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Or one where you can walk right off into the woods.

Todd Mason said...

I'm mildly surprised that no one else has volubly been reminded of Joseph Payne Brennan's "Canavan's Back Yard"...perhaps his most overrated story (his "Levitation" might be impossible to overrate).

wv: megrer (A Spanish infinitive verb)

pattinase (abbott) said...

New to me, Todd. I am a neophyte in your sophisticated world.

R. T. said...

John Cheever's short story "The Swimmer" says everything you need to know about backyards and American suburbia in one of the most powerful stories imaginable. And don't miss the Burt Lancaster film that was based on the story.

Todd Mason said...

You know, I just flashed on the consanguinuity of "The Swimmer" and John Barth's fantasy "Night Sea Journey." Wonder if the Cheever nudged Barth at all.

Certainly, I'd suggest "The Swimmer" is the second-most famous suspense story from the pages of THE NEW YORKER (after "The Lottery").

wv: rilist

R. T. said...

Barth reading (be nudged by) Cheever? That's intriguing though doubtful--but still an entertining thought.

pattinase (abbott) said...

"The Swimmer" may be my favorite short story and one of my favorite movies. Burt Lancaster in swimming trunks for 2 hours in his fifties. What a concept.

Todd Mason said...

Are you aware of hostility between Cheever and Barth? That Barth wouldn't read Cheever seems less likely than that either might read the other.

wv: congl

Richard Robinson said...

First, during several long train trips I noticed that the back yards next to the tracks are some of the ugliest and least kept and cultivated anywhere. Houses next to the tracks are usually poor places, the yard seems to get filled with refuse, junk and debris.

Fictional back yards? I like the idea that back yards belong to family, kids, good, safe, happy memory times, barbecuing, some vegetables, good smells from flowers, pretty things. Then the yard is either a refuge from the bad world or it's decaying, forgotten, sad.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

Immaculate, showy front yards, combined with trashy back yards, create characters. You're on to something, Mrs. Abbott.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The other side of the tracks is anywhere near them.

the walking man said...

Foot hill country. Some that butt up to streams that overflow with rain and some with goats jumping on the hood and roofs of no longer used cars. Some that you know even looking at them wrong is an invasion of privacy and others that make you divert your attention for the gaudy display of statuary and other eye candy growing in there.

Marcia Burrows said...

I love my partner, Elizabeth Sims', mysteries.
In the first of the Lillian Byrd series, HOLY HELL Lillian sneaks around an alley and backyard in Detroit. It's pretty scary.
In Sims' latest THE EXTRA, George Rowe checks out a manicured backyard in Los Angeles from which a beagle has gone missing.
So Elizabeth has the reader in a backyard in her first and her most recent novels!

Chuck said...

I grew up in a Detroit industrial suburb (River Rouge) where we had small backyards and alleys. My sister and I used to go alley picking and tried to stay ahead of the sheeny man with his horse drawn wagon. We dragged home many "treasurers" which our mother allowed us to keep behind the garage. What a back yard we created. However, after it rained, no one went back there. Probably a good place to hide a body.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Chuck-you know your audience here. My childhood back alley lined two blocks of row houses. Someone with a wagon was always going up or down it-but it was all concrete-nothing interesting at all. Just a million kids playing dodge ball and capture the flag.