Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nuggets of Common Everyday Life

I'm currently listening to an audio book in my car on my drive to and from work. It has been quite enjoyable, and though the weather here has been wonderful lately, I've kept my windows up so I won't miss a word.

Something in the very first chapter of Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell caught me and made me sigh.
It was an early May evening--the April of the poets; for heavy showers had fallen all the morning, and the round, soft, white clouds which were blown by a west wind over the dark blue sky, were sometimes varied by one blacker and more threatening. The softness of the day tempted forth the young green leaves, which almost visibly fluttered into life; and the willows, which that morning had had only a brown reflection in the water below, were now of that tender grey-green which blends so delicately with the spring harmony of colours.
This description was beautiful and so easy to relate to along my drive to work.

I'm a modern reader and don't like to get bogged down with too much description in a book, but I do love when an author tucks in little details about life that are often so easily overlooked in our rush to get to the action or more exciting elements of life and story.

Here is another quote from a Barbour novella.
She pulled the trunk out from the corner where it usually stood. Something tiny and dark scurried from the light, and she breathed a sigh of relief as it scuttled through the space under the front door, nearly flattening itself in the process.
It was probably a field mouse. By now she should be used to them. The trick was, as Joel put it, to encourage them to live elsewhere when the house was the warmest place around in the dead of winter.
This is set on the American prairie, and they had critters to deal with. Mice drawn to the food. Mice living in the walls. Mice running along the rafters. They were a common part of life, so I love when an author inserts a little nugget of what would have been common place for the characters and easily overlooked on their hurry to get their daily work done.

Have you noticed nuggets like these in books you read? Think about where you could add a couple in your own work: sparrow's nest in the bush by the heroine's front door, bird dirt on the hero's nice car, the feel of spring grass on bare feet long confined by shoes during winter, the smell of the earth after a fresh spring rain that washes green pollen into puddles, the smell of a lilac bush alongside the building your character is entering, the sound of a stream running full with melted snow, etc.

Now if anyone can tell me what Barbour novella the above quote comes from, I have a copy of a book that is all about details for you -- Fascinating Facts of the Faith.

(picture is a sparrow's nest in a barberry bush in my yard this spring)

UPDATE: Did everyone give up trying for the free book? At least the author recognized her own writing. Should she get the free book? (grin) Would it help if I tell you it was a Christmas novella?

UPDATE 5-15: Okay, fine. It was a novella in Christmas Threads titled "Christmas Cake" by Janet Spaeth published 8 years ago. I'll give her the trivia book. :-)


Pam Hillman said...

At first I thought that quote was from one of Mary's mice books (you know how she LOVES the little critters!), but since it's a novella set in the Prairie, not gonna work for a cozy.

I loved the picture of the bird's nest. Beautiful.

Mary Connealy said...

I don't know what book, Becky, but then I didn't know Barbour had a line of horror novels.

HPH Heartsong Presents Horror.

Anita Mae said...

I enjoy finding nuggets when I'm reading and that has inspired me to add them to my wip.
However, whenever I do, at least one of my CP's, will ask if it's necessary to the story.
Well, no, it's not necessary, but it surely enhances it.
Why does it have to be all or nothing?

Becky said...

Well, Anita Mae, the mouse in the Barbour novella does come back a couple times in the story to create some havoc, but I still like how a common mouse is used in the story. I think you can add nuggets that don't take away from the story. Now if you go off giving too much detail about your nugget from the story setting, then it can become a story interrupter, so it needs to be within limits.

Becky said...

Mary, you've just named our next book club. :)