Salad; Food For Thought

Image

Today, I was asked, “If you were in a salad, what part of the salad would you be?”

Completely caught unawares, I told the questioner, “Let’s make it a fruit salad. I’m fruit because fruit is sweet, but healthy, and I like to have fun but I try to be a good person.” Image

Still reeling from that question, I went on my way, but I still thought about how odd that question had been… and yet so apt. People really can be characterized in terms of salad. Salads are enormously diverse in their contents, just as people are diverse in not only their ethnicity, but their personalities. I think we can each assign fruits, vegetales and dressings to each of our family and friends without too much trouble. Of course they might give themselves or others different food assignments, but the point of the exercise is the same.

First, we havee the essential salad greens, our lettuce. I think the lettuce in our lives are the countless aquaintances who you know by name, but couldn’t give many details about their personal lives. There are lots of them (sometimes too many), but it’s good to have them around, because without them your social scene might be rather bereft (and your salad rather unusual looking).

Next we have my personal favorite; the carrots. These are colorful people who enrich your life (nutrients in your diet) and have deep “roots” in your life. They’re been around long enough that you don’t bother counting the years. They’re simply integral.

Another colorful bunch, are the tomatos. These people are the ones that sometimes surprize you with a vibrant taste in an otherwise bland social scene. They’re fun, but not always easy to get ahold off (ever chased one across the plate with your fork?).

And it seems that where there are tomatos, there are also cucumbers. These fellows can be seedy, but you can’t seem to let them out of your life completely because somethimes they show their value at unexpected times (a cucumber with outstanding taste because it’s fresh for once!).

A similarly doubtful group is the spinach. You aren’t so sure you like these friends at first, but they grow on you and soon they’re absolutely essential in your salad.

Now everybody loves the croutons. They aren’t for dieters, but they are exciting and rather different from the other characters in your life. They’re very individual and they play by their own rules (like refusing to get onto the fork until they’re good and ready to).

ImageLastly, we have the salad dressing. The most enjoyable part. The dressing tastes good. It doesn’t have to be healthy as long as it makes you happy. Most people shop around for a bit, but eventually they settle on their dressing and tend to get the same one every time they order a salad. If you haven’t guessed yet, this is the best friend (or maybe significant other). They’re the perfect fit.

Oh, and there are those weirdo fruits, like me!

Comment with your thoughts! Any other “types” in your salad? Disagreement with my salad analysis? Favorite ingredients?! I’m sure there are lots, but I didn’t want to make the post too long!

Advertisements

Beyond me… bilingual characters

I am fascinated with languages. I think some of my previous posts have made that clear. However, I myself, am struggling to gain fluency in a second language, though I do like to gather random phrases from other languages. It’s fun to have the ability to communicate with a larger percentage of the Earth’s population. So of course, I’m jealous of people with complete fluency in multiple languages. I tend to like giving my characters abilities that I wish I had ( like hand-eye-coordination), but I have never written a bilingual character. I fear that it might add a level of complexity that I can’t handle. 

I would have to deal with showing how the character uses her second language. That is not an element that can simply be claimed and then ignored. Words from the secondary language would need to be artfully laced into the dialogue. I think those words would best be used in exclamations and under-the-breath muttering, but once again the concept of balance comes into play. Too many words in a foreign language and a series of risks develops. First, readers that don’t understand the words will be confused and lose interest, the dialogue could get weighed down with explanations, and the speed of the plot could get dramatically slowed down. Therefore, bilingual characters bring with them the unique challenge of needing to be developed with a sparse sprinkling of words, like appropriately balanced salt use.

In fantasy and science fiction genres, a whole new level can be added to the challenge if the second language that the character communicates in is not English. In that case, the writer has to develop and keep straight a whole vocabulary of their own invention. The complexity of that process is almost too much to handle. In the development of Avatar for the silver screen, a whole team of people contributed to inventing the alien language that was used. There’s a reason that masters of belingual worlds like JRR Tolkien gain places of honor in our literary tradtion.

For now, my characters speak english, only English. However, maybe one day in the future, I will be ready to hurtle myself to the next level with a character that has also acheived a level beyond mine. 

ImageImage

Details.

(Please bear with me for this post in the way of any spellling/grammar errors, as I appear to have gotten my settings stuck in spanish, so Everything is underlined in red)

Life is in the details. There are so many little things that we see all around us and take for granted. Out of the corner of my eye, I am currently ignoring about twenty post-it notes, four business cards, a bowl, tangled earbuds…. A host of unimportant things, that I probably would never think to write about in the surroundings of a character when I’m setting the scene. But some of those details show little hints of my personality, without coming out and saying it outright. Writing about those details could be the perfect opening to insert the constantly sought after “Show, don’t tell” mantra of many writers.

A character could be described as a very smart girl with an obsession with winning. Or you could instead start the scene in her bedrooom with a description of stacks of books, a wall of trophies, and an abandoned chess set. Will those books facot directly into the story? Probably not, but describing them brings the character to life more so than any other tactic. The details are the difference between a bland, cookie-cutter character and a dianamic heroine.

But there’s a balance to be struck. Getting bogged down in the details is one of those traps that we all fall into in real life just as much as in writing. You might think every moment of your day was utterly delightful, but your friend probaba doesn’t want a minute-by-minute breakdown over the phone at the end of the day (“and then I blew my nose, so I had to….”). It’s the same in writing. In the bedroom scene, don’t write about the position of every piece of furniture in the room unless it a) will affect the story, b) tells us about the character, or c) is highly amusing.

The details are the life-blood of the story and can bring it to life. Have you ever read a book where you could scarcely imagine the scenes and then picked up a book that was more description than dialog? The difference can blow you away. I personally prefer the latter. Do you have a favorite example of a book filled with minute details? Tell me about it in the comments!Image

ImageImage

Ideas

Ideas are everywhere. Some weeks I have about a million ideas. Writing ideas, things I want to research, schemes for having fun with my friends…. And then there are weeks like this one when nothing new occurs to me. One fictional idea formed a week ago, but every other idea has been older. In fact, because I have no ideas for this blog post, but I want to keep up the posting now that I’ve restarted, I will simply post about ideas.

The things that trigger ideas seem to have absolutely zero pattern to them. For me, it can be a key word or an image. Sometimes a concept, sometimes a passing phrase in conversation. Most often, I think my ideas are stimulated by things I read. The medium doesn’t matter. One book can send my searching for similar ones or incite an urge in me to pursue a new activity. A random line on the side of an internet site can fill me with questions, even after ignoring countless similar lines.

I doubt it’s the same for everybody. For me, image triggers are only occasional, but I have to believe that for some people, it plays a much bigger role. Posters, movies, magazines, television… we have constant exposure to imagery, so it makes sense that plenty of people would be moved to ideas from images.

In my opinion, this world in which we all come to ideas differently is a beautiful one. Not only the ideas are different, but the paths by which minds reach them vary. Just another dimension of mental diversity.

Image

The new and the old

And I return! I think it’s been about two months since the last time I posted or even read somebody else’s blog post, but I’ve been itching to to write recently (as if an increase in essays isn’t enough).

I’m a little belated in greeting the new year, but I think the time is ripe for a post about the new, the old, and the unfamiliar in my life and particularly at my keyboard. When I started this blog it certainly fell under the first heading, but in this new year as I make a return, I think I can realistically categorize it in the old and comfortable writing that I did last year. I also have the familiarity of fiction and essay writing at my finger-tips, but there we have my main divergence into new categories this year.

Firstly, the mundane world of essay writing presented me with a challenge last week. Image For a class I had to write a 600-700 word essay (farrrr too short) that presented facts about globalization, WITHOUT coloring it with my own opinion. Essays? Familiar. Globalization? Familiar. Not stating my opinion?! definitely new territory. It was an interesting exercise to reign in my emotions and try to write objectively. I’d like to think I succeeded, but I certainly didn’t like it. It’s nice to continue expanding my writing skills though.

In a far more interesting strain, I stumbled across a subgenre of science fiction that I had somehow failed to notice before. Steampunk fiction. It started with me rapidly reading my way through half of a steampunk novel (“Leviathan” by Scott Westerfeld), turned into a mouth-gaping internet search (it seems to have a cult following…), and finally ended with the gears of my mind turning excitedly and my fingers flying over the keyboard to write 1000 words of my first steampunk fiction.

ImageFor those of you who were in the dark like me, steampunk is a science fiction sub-genre that incorporates 20th century machines into a victorian society, sometimes bringing in elements of the supernatural. How this strange genre developed seems to be up for debate, but the result is a fascinating new area of my favorite genre for me to get lost in. I love how fiction is constantly evolving and supplying us all with the chance to enter new worlds. I’m reveling in the sense of newness, still just 35 days into the new year.

Is there anything new in fiction or in your own evolving writing skills that has caught your fascination recently? I hope so- it’s a fantastic feeling.