Hairy Fruit

I haven’t done a writing advice post for a while, so here’s one for you.

Rambut = Indonesian for “hair”
Rambutan = a hairy fruit, common in Southeast Asia


These hairy eyeballs are one of the fruits that Justine and I like to gorge on while we’re here in Sydney, because you simply can’t find them in New York. (Or if by some chance you do, they’re both absurdly expensive and half rotten.)

How to describe the taste? Well, the only similar fruit available in the US is the lychee, but I never had fresh lychee until I came to Australia, and the canned ones suck. So the rambutan really is a new taste—less acid than citrus, sharper than melon, darker than pineapple.

Or maybe I shouldn’t use comparisons. Rambutans have their own flavor, so I should describe them in their own terms. And that means really tasting them, then thinking hard, then wondering for a while how words can even capture sensual experience. In other words, describing the hairy eyeball means really being a writer.

(Which also means maybe failing at being a writer.)

These little philosophical diversions are something I love about travel: Going new places reminds you how much bigger the world is than you thought. For every kind of fruit you’ve tried in your life, there are a dozen species you’ve never heard of. No, make that a hundred—there are thirty species of pears, for heaven’s sake.

And it’s not just food. For every kind of social celebration you can name, some culture somewhere has ten more that don’t fall into any of your familiar categories. For every kind of person you’ve met, there are probably dozens of other personality types out there, unknown and unexpected, walking around experiencing entirely different aspirations and fears than the ones you know so well. Even the human emotions we think of as universal and primal sometimes come in very different flavors.

“But all people love their children!” I can hear someone protesting in a whiny voice. Yeah, maybe, but talk about different flavors. In various times and places, people have loved their kids by crippling them, beating them to death, or selling them.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that you need a time machine or even a jet plane to experience difference. I’ll bet that some very different folks live just on the other side of your town, and for whatever reason (social, historical, economic, accidental) you’ve never met them.

Writers need to remember that. I mean, everyone needs to realize that their little sandbox is not the whole world (or a scale model of it, or in any way representative of it). But it’s especially important for writers to keep hitting ourselves over the head with reminders of this simple fact: The world is SO much bigger and humanity so much gnarlier and more complicated than we assume it to be.

And if we forget that, we wind up splicing ourselves and the few people we know best (in my case, college-educated white folks who geek out on sciencey/numbery stuff and music) into every scenario on the planet. We wind up turning this gigantic world into a small one, and wind up writing small books for small readers.

In other words, we become cowards.

(And for us science fiction writers it’s so much worse, because we’re flogging these same, lame photocopies in the distant future and across the universe. Our bigger canvas means a epically vaster Fail.)

So this is my writing advice for today: When the hairy eyeballs look your way, look back. Taste them, swallow them, deal with their weirdness. Then tell stories about them.

Otherwise you’ll suck, both at writing and at life.

164 thoughts on “Hairy Fruit

  1. That was really deep. I am totally going to remember that, and try to eat the hairy eyeball fruits of life. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Click my name. ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Well, there’s allways next post. I’ll lay back now that I got my turn at being the first comment. LOL! It’s like such a competition, getting 1st comment… I wonder if Scott-la knows? Haha.

  3. OMGSH NUMBER 8!!!!!!!!11
    ANYWAY!!!!!!! Those fruit are SOO STINKING cool looking!!!!!!!

  4. Scott-la, you’re totally right. Not just for writing, but for life in general. In my opinion at least. And i LOVE lychee :]] i used to eat them all the time back at home!! But i dont think ive eaten those hairy fruits before…

  5. Hahaha. This amazing:P
    And I definitely don’t want to fail at life (or, as an aspiring novelist, a writer), so I will definitely keep a look out for hairy eyeballs.
    Though, I have a feeling that anything which is that rare and rotted by the time it meets New York is going to be non-existent in a place like Las Vegas:P

  6. You said it Sydner. I live in the next state, so totally understand. Though lychee from Hawaii will do for me… Lol

  7. OH! haha. Rambutans are all over the place here, but aren’t you NOT supposed to cut the thing? We just break the thingy in half and the part you eat comes out.

    But this isn’t that disgusting yet. Try looking a prematurely dead duckling in the eye after you just sprinkled salt all over it.

  8. i dont think he meant it to be disgusting nikki. And yes, that is totally disgusting! (never want to picture that image again).

  9. Wow. That’s the most unique advice I’ve ever gotten about writing, and I definitely have to try that fruit!

  10. This is true. For writing and for life in general.

    A lot of middle and high school kids seem focused totally on their own lives with no regard for anyone else. It’s like nothing exists outside of their little life of school, sports practice and text messaging. (Okay, okay, I’m not exactly a worldly person either.)

    The funny thing is that even with television and internet and phones and a dozen other forms of instantaneous communication, we still are stuck in our own lives. It’s not a bad thing to care about your life and all, but when you’re at the point where you don’t even care what else is out there, there’s something wrong.

    It’s weird to think about life back in the day when breaking news didn’t reach certain places for days or weeks or months. Back in colonial America, there was a part of the population who were affected by the British taxes. They were the Patriots. But them Loyalist country folk were poor, so the taxes didn’t really affect them. Many of them were immigrants, so they didn’t care about American issues. Some were afraid of being kicked off the king’s land. But one of the main reasons they were Loyalist was because the news never reached them. When you live in a small, two-room cabin surrounded by acres of your own land, who’s there to tell you what’s going on?

    But anyway. This is very good advice and will probably percolate in my mind over the next few weeks, at the least, and will stick in my mind long after that. (I know this because it’s happened before…)

  11. You /are/ a genius. When I read Uglies, my eyes opened up wide for a long, long time; and lately they’ve been lidding closed. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for opening them up again.

  12. i get it from the asian store ’cause my moms philipeano. or asian. or as u put it on tests ” pacific islander”. butt ya. im black, white, asian, and british!!

  13. that was such an interesting post to read! i’ve been getting into writing myself more lately and that was great to see. i love you scott!

  14. i’ve never had those before but they look a little bit like lychee without the long, tentacle-like hairs…
    and i’ll remember your advice in the future. i actually always think of outrageous characters you’d never see in your own life so i guess im on a good start.

  15. SO that’s what they’re called in English! [I’ve been wondering since I only know what’s it called in Chinese. . .]

    For where I live, you can just go to Chinatown and buy some rambutan [and they’re not usually half-eaten or absurdly expensive].

    And great advice too. ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. That was a wonderful post:) It definately got me thinking about all the people in the world who are different, and how different they are from me.

  17. I agree with everyone here; that was a thought-proviking blog if I ever saw one! But I allready knew all about the fact that there are places and people who are SOOO different from the average American. I’m Greek and Turkish, and have been to both places, so I difinatly know the difference. Both places are very different from the US, and have their own customs and all of that.

  18. Lol, Bethany-la! My cat’s don’t do that. Tibbit, by Russian Blue, on the rare occasion he does meow, he does more of a mrow, high pitched and quiet. It’s cute to hear, actually.

  19. If I ever see that fruit (which I won’t any time soon because I live in the middle of nowhere) I’ll eat it and be like “YES! I can taste the different cultures!”
    You miss a lot when you don’t check out this blog, totally philosophical. Also, I think it’s so great that Scott-la (other authors too) inspire people to write. I know he did me, and that’s some great advice.
    Allie-wa: Totally.

    Everyone have a nice day! (or night!)

  20. Thank you so much! This is exactly what I needed… I’m trying to write a short story, and I came up with an amazing idea, but the character (and any other character I try to create) is so boring. This post had made me inspired to work on her character much more… Thanks!
    And that fruit looks awesome.

  21. Alew-wa: Yes, thats what I thought, but really. Even if the cat is grumpy, I can’t imagine a cat going me-uf-ow. I can see the mee-uf, or the me-ow, but not a me-uf-ow.

  22. It looks a bit more like a sea urchan to me….
    Anyway, it takes a true writer to turn a hairy fruit into a phylosophical, inspirational post. *applauds*

  23. Bethany-la, Hunted isn’t the last book. You can learn all about the series on their website, There’s going to be 9 books in all. Well, that’s what they’re saying. Yup. OMG!!!! 3 DAYS UNTIL HUNTED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG, I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!!!! I’M THROWIN A PARTY AT MY PLACE, OH YYYEAAAHH!!! THIS IS SOO AWSOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. AAANND, I FINISHED NIGHTFALL ON FRIDAY 2ND PERIOD!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WAS AWSOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Okay, I think I got all my excitement out of me. Lol. Now like all of my favorite books are being made for the big screen. I’d much rather they turned Vampire Diaries in to a movie, though. Come on, a TV series? Not appealing to me. Well, we’ll see. There’s no changing it now. They’ve allready got actors and everything for the series. Hm… maybe after the series they’ll make a movie…

  25. I don’t know how I feel about the Vampire Diaries being turned into a TV show (what if it’s bad?).
    Since I have heard such great things about the House of Night series I decided to get the first book today. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. interesting, interesting, interesting…
    i’ll have to think about that.
    thank you so much for this post.

  27. Excellent advice in both life and writing; and very brave to do so as well! Thanks for the post.

  28. Hairy Fruit.

    You know what was weird? I was coming onto the website cause i was like, man, i could really use some writing tips right now. And WHA-LA! There was writing advice. Some would say its ironic i say GOD STORY!

  29. my library doesnt have the house of night series… i will have to check my school library

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