Every time I read the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, I find myself craving a good cup of coffee. There’s just something about his descriptions of the rich aroma that calls to my taste buds.
These are the details I love in books. They help make the story real. I have a hard time writing about places I’ve never been because of this. Research may tell me that the flies in Venezuela can be huge, but without seeing them, I don’t know if they’re the size of grapes or peanuts, or if I can see the hairs on their bodies.
I might have been able to find in my research that flowers bloom year-round in South Carolina, but I love that I can say, from experience, that the camellias bloom in February with some of the most gorgeous pink and red blossoms that fill the air with their sweet, mild perfume. Or that the magnolias turn gorgeously white with flowers, and then litter the ground the rest of the year with their long, shiny leaves.
I wouldn’t have even known to research what cucumbers look like on the vine. They have spines on them that rub off when you wash them later, but if you grab a cucumber directly off the vine, watch out, it might bite.
I think this is where the old adage, “Write what you know,” actually applies. Obviously, if I’m writing fantasy, I’ve never experienced what it’s like to fling ice magic from my fingertips, but I can say what it feels like to breathe in -20 degree air and feel the hairs in your nose freeze. Makes me think of rubber cement in my nostrils. (You’re welcome for that image 🙂)
And as I pay attention to such details with the idea of adding them to my writing, I find it just makes life itself richer when I pay closer attention to the world around me. We live in such a beautiful, detailed world.
What little details stick with you about a place or experience? The smell of coffee? Maybe chai? A sound or feeling?
P.S. I paused briefly on the HM II developmental edit to give my brain a breather. It’s still sitting at 38% complete. Instead, I’ve been cranking out the Zap Dragon rough draft, which I’m excited to announce is complete! Whoop! Whoop! Now back to developmental editing for a week to let my brain cool on Zap Dragon. I’ll be flipping back and forth between these two for most of this year 🙂