Novel House Rules


I had a fantastic day at the Scottish Association of Writers Conference on the 18th of March 2017. A workshop with fellow Dunfermline author Keith Gray took us all back to the secrecy of teendom and we delved deep into a little group editing with Edinburgh author Regi Claire.


I led a workshop based on date 32 from ‘52 Dates for Writers’, the house-hunting date. I loved the snapshot of all the different narratives that was produced by dwelling on dwellings. At the end of the workshop, everyone wrote a set of 5 house rules for one of the homes in their story. With permission, I share a selection of these here with you.


  1. Don’t encourage Ethan to talk to people who are clearly not there.
  2. Never leave the front door unlocked and never answer the door to strangers.
  3. Tidy up your duvet and pillow from the living room couch every morning before breakfast.
  4. Don’t try to manipulate your father into extending your stay.
  5. Angelo is welcome to visit but must leave by 10pm.

Elizabeth Frattaroli


Do as I say.
Do it when I say.
Don't think you can fool me.
Don't think I don't know.
Whatever happens in this house stays in this house.

Keith Gray


  1. Spillages must be cleaned unless you have enough in your bank account for a new carpet.
  2. Dirty fingerprints will be compared with the samples held on file.
  3. Laundry must be collected from the utility room. Items not collected after 3 months will be bagged for charity.
  4. Bottles from the wine cellar are tagged.
  5. Parties are restricted to afternoon tea. Social media will tell the truth if you don’t.

Catherine Ogston


  1. Please remember – don’t forget, never leave the bathroom wet.
  2. No dancing on the ceiling.
  3. Please give way to individuals measuring 6 foot by 4 foot, or more.
  4. Leave all indoor doors that are locked, locked.
  5. No screaming at any time.

Martha Wells


  1. Anyone wearing hobnailed boots on my newly-fitted tropical hard-wood flooring will be trampled to death.
  2. Please leave the dishwasher stacking to my husband. He is the only man in the world with a spiritual understanding of the dishwashing psyche.
  3. Put the tin bath back on its nail on the outside wall of the cludgie when you’ve finished your ablutions.
  4. Don’t get between the cat and its feeding bowl.
  5. Play nicely with the dog.

Don Wells


No downstairs food upstairs

No locking bedroom doors

No mobile phones in bed

No leaving / arriving in uniform

No English at the table

Gillian Duff  


I loved the questions these little lists provoked and the way just a few lines encapsulated the atmosphere of a household, a home. Who does Ethan try to talk to? Which food is considered fit for eating upstairs, and which downstairs? Is the forbidden screaming the sound of innocent enjoyment or something more sinister? I wanted to know more about both the characters who made the rules and the often unfortunates who have to live by them. 

Why not try writing the house rules for one of the dwellings in your story? These could be spelled out on the walls of the home, or in a letter to a house-sitter or guest, or they might remain unspoken - invisible rules that bind none-the-less.


Author Biographies

Elizabeth Frattaroli’s first middle grade fantasy novel, 'Pathfinder 13', won the T.C.Farries prize at the Scottish Association of Writers conference last year, and she is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the Scottish Association of Writers, as well as Press Secretary for the Angus Writers’ Circle. Find out more here or follow Elizabeth on Twitter @elizfrat. Elizabeth’s house rules are inspired by her current work-in-progress, a Young Adult novel called 'Sixteen Again', a modern-day Sleeping Beauty story with a Faustian twist.


Keith Gray is a writer for children and young adults. He has published over 20 books and been translated into over a dozen languages. His novel 'Ostrich Boys' was shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Awards and the CILIP Carnegie Medal and has been adapted for the stage. His house rules are based on his latest YA novel in progress.


Catherine Ogston writes with Perthshire Writers, has various YA projects on the go and has a short story in New Writing Scotland 35. You can follow her on Twitter on @CatherineOgston


Martha Wells is a member of Aberdeen Writers' Circle and is currently at chapter 37 of a work of historical fiction, 'Incoming Tide', inspired by the true story of her great-grandparents.


Don Wells was born in London, had his young life disrupted in 1940 by a dreadful man called Herman Goering, moved to Buckinghamshire, served Her Majesty in the Army in Aberdeen, Cyprus and Germany and finally settled in Aberdeen, where he now indulges his passions for writing, tai chi, singing and laughing. He is committed to finishing his first novel. You can follow his efforts here.


Gillian Duff is a writer, educator and businesswoman who lives in the beautiful Scottish countryside with her children and friendly Jackadoodle.

Gillian writes non-fiction which focusses on wellbeing which helps others to lead a more natural life. Her recent book on Meditation and Mindfulness is available on Amazon. She is currently working on a crime-fiction novel based in the north east of Scotland but which has its roots all over the world. Find out more about Gillian’s writing on her website.


This is one of more than 100 writing exercises and prompts from the creative writing guide ‘52 Dates for Writers’.  To purchase your signed copy direct from the author