Saturday, June 11, 2011

Overlooking the Ordinary

One of life's great lessons: don't pick raspberries in clothes you care about.  I'm covered in scratches and purple stains.  The berries are worth it, though; sweet and tart at the same time, with tiny little seeds that always get caught in your teeth.  

And what, you ask, do raspberries have to do with literature?  (Unless, of course, you're too polite to ask, or maybe you're too distracted by thoughts of raspberries with shortcake and milk to care whether I have a pertinent topic.)  

When writing descriptions it's easy to overlook the ordinary moments that make a world seem real and lived in.  Right now I'm thinking about the smell of sunlight and sweat, the tug of thorns on my skirt and the end of my braid, the moment when I lean too far over the brambles to snatch a handful of berries and stumble a little to keep my footing.  

Every June I pick raspberries.  I'm downright experienced -but I've never written a story where the main character goes berry-picking.  Or shells peas.  Or pits cherries and accidentally spritzes themselves in the eye.  Those things are all so ordinary that I don't think of them when I set down to type.  

There is nothing wrong with writing about what you find exotic: in my case, princesses, and dragons, and swashbuckling heroes in cool hats.  But you shouldn't discount everyday details either.  They just might be exotic to someone else.  After all, not everyone is lucky enough to go raspberry picking.

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