Engineering and Architecture – or how to create a secret compartment

Diorama of Portia's Apt

Diorama of Portia's Apt

I’ve never been good with spatial reasoning, I really have to see something to understand it, let alone to describe it in prose in a book!

I wanted to include a secret hiding spot where Holmes would have kept his really top-secret stuff, and that Portia could discover and use to her own advantage as well. My idea was that the spot be somewhere behind the fireplace, but in trying to articulate both its discovery and usage, I struggled to explain it clearly.

So I kind of built it, with cardboard, to be able to describe it things that are happening in a scene. Its kind of a little diorama. Hopefully it will be useful in the future when I do other descriptive writing, but at the very least, it will help me be consistent (like when I describe Portia coming out of her bedroom and bumping into her dresser on her right – let’s establish the dresser is on the right!!).

This first pic is of the whole apartment (the bathroom is in the lower right quadrant, the fireplace on the left and Portia’s bed is hidden in the top right quadrant.

This second picture is of the a close up of the fireplace itself.

Diorama image 2: The Fireplace

Diorama image 2: The Fireplace

Note the two white columns on either side and the mantlepiece.

The chairs are the wingbacks Portia usually sits in and in the very left of the image you can barely see the stove. Yes, I know, try not to get distracted by the horrible details, this is NOT my forte.

Now if you look at the third image below of the diorama in close-up you see my clumsy fingers demonstrating how the white columns rotate forward, allowing for limited storage behind them and beside the actual fireplace. I figure with the brick all-round the fireplace area, and the white columns being made out of wood, the hidden contents should be reasonably protected from a fire in the fireplace.

Close up of the fireplace demonstrating the hiding spot...

Close up of the fireplace demonstrating the hiding spot...


What think you?

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5 thoughts on “Engineering and Architecture – or how to create a secret compartment

  1. It’s awesome that you built the room so you could describe it better! Sometimes I draw the location I want to describe. Then I just look at the drawing and describe what I see so (hopefully) it makes sense to readers (well, nobody has actually read my book yet, but, you know, potential readers). But you took it to a whole new level by constructing a 3D model.

    • Lol; thanks, my husband made fun of me the entire time because he’s GREAT at spatial reasoning. It weird to be so good at using my imagination, and so bad at visualizing physically complex things. Ah well, a diorama! Whodathunk we’d use that skill after Grade 3?!

    • Thanks! It took a coup,e hours to make, but I don’t know… It was worth the reassurance if you know what I mean? That what I was describing was physically possible… And it made it way easier to explain!

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