|Average Girl by Thanksamillion on deviantART|
***I have much more exciting news posted here, but I already had this post all plotted out in my head so I'm writing it anyway***
I didn't think it was possible, but I may have found a quality in writing that is more elusive that voice - grounding. Those little details that make a story or a scene or a character real. My favorite example of this comes from C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawntreader:
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
Immediately, I know this character. I've known people who for whatever reason deserve an identifying trait: a name, a birthmark, hair color. So when I read that this boy deserves a truly awful name, I feel like I know him. Another example pops up in a CP's manuscript:
I ALWAYS have a hair tie on my wrist. It's visible in every one of my wedding photos. Reading that passage, I immediately connected to the main character because it's a real world detail that makes an otherwise distant story real.
I write fantasy. Even when I try to write straight forward contemporary, fantastical elements pop up. I like that sense of otherworldliness when I read, so that's what I write. But even in the most fantastic, unknown worlds, with characters so strange and unreal that they bear no resemblance to mankind, readers need some common point of understanding to connect to the story.
There is a flip side to this, however, when the real world details start sounding like an advertisement. I read an otherwise lovely manuscript once that rattled off 5 or 6 different brand names in the space of the first chapter - and it drove me crazy. While it can help to establish a character or setting, brand popularity can change so quickly that the meaning can disappear overnight. A certain brand of shoes or car or electronic gadget can work very well, but be certain that the meaning won't be lost when trends fade.
What are something you've found that ground a story or character? How important do you think grounding is? Share a favorite passage if one comes to mind!