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

Observe:
rambutan

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. wow eclipse… Totally brain-working name? Completely lost, but if you like it, awesome. I have no idea how to do those… Lol

  2. I like your old username better!!!!!

    I mean its pretty and allll but i like them other one better!!

    So are there any guys on here?Or are we really allllllll girls??

    Wow that would be alot of estrogen.

  3. This is a really awesome, though-provoking post…nice!
    that’s my main problem when i try to write something…the characters are insanely boring and the plots are kinda stupid cause i don’t know anything about how most of the world works.
    and i really want to eat one of those hairy fruits…

  4. i think we might be all girls emi-la… I read a guy post a LOOOOOng time ago, but he was like 30. When lizzy-wa was comment queen before alex-wa.

    Haley~Hyperness is ICY, you cant rwally say that about your stories until someones read them. I bet they’re not bad.

  5. 1. that was a nice little blog entry
    2. i want to eat that fruit NOW
    3. SHUT UP ABOUT TWILIGHT! it has nothing to do with the blog or any of the books really except for peeps, but thats only distant. OK?

  6. Clearly, you need to come down to the tropical Isles of Singapore or Malaysia and experience the weirdness of fruit flavours we have to offer. (durians, jackfruits, mangosteens etc.)

    The post was really food for thought. I think it’s difficult, especially as you get older and you have all these societal expectations and rules indoctrinated in you that you begin to close your mind to other possibilities. It’s sad but it would be worse if we shunned difference completely. It would be like sensing the world through tissue paper! Muted!

    No idea what I’m on about. I will go eat fruit now. Kthxbai.

  7. “But all people love their children!” I can hear someone protesting in a whiny voice. Yeah, maybe, but talk about different flavors

    The concept of “their children” is itself culturally determined. In most cultures the people who can call children “their children” are the mother and father (biological or social/adoptive). But in some cultures, the male parent in a child’s life is the mother’s eldest brother–the mother’s partner/biological father plays a much more peripheral role, much like the role of an uncle in the industrialized world. And in some cultures, children are raised communally, or in totem groups aligned by birth date or other event, with a much stronger caretaking/love/responsibility tie to their caretakers than to their biological parents.

  8. Emi-la: Lol. Estrogen fest. Maybe all the boys are scared we’ll eat them. (muahahaha)

    Smaur: He is intensely fantastic!

    Eclipse: I like your new name. (I’m just kind of lazy which is why i just wrote eclipse. : D)

    Peace.

  9. Those fruits are wild! (that may have been a bad pun, sorry)
    That was really deep though, the world would be a much better place if more people had their eyes open.

  10. whoa. those fruits look delicious. : ) great advice too, i’ll try to remember that in my writing. thanks

  11. i dont write=.[
    ive tried im just like unorginizered and ADD like in my writeing
    like:
    this is a story about butterflies but also about a magical princess
    so this frog was like, hopping down the yellow brick road…
    and so on

  12. Wait!!!!!
    Chase are you a boy?????
    And
    Josh Jasper are you a boy????

    YAY!!!!!!! Myabe We’ll have something other the estrogen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    (not that i have a problem with girls! but ya know…)

  13. Eve-la I would read ity too!!!
    It would be totally laugh-provoking!!!

    Night whatch-why do you only know it in chinese?!?!

  14. OOOOOMMMMMGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HUNTED COMES OUT TOMMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  15. Lol. I think we should interrogate every new comer to the blog and be like ARE YOU A BOY?! ARE YOU SURE?! ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE?! Okay we believe you! Maybeeee. HeHe.

  16. Awesome, Alex-wa! Guys I’m sick! Not enough to stay home from school though, ugh. Oh wells, I’ve got a cherry popsicle right now to sate the ouchieness of my sore throat. 🙂

  17. Tally&Zane OMGSH I think that is like the most bomb idea EVER!!
    (Idea!!! Us:Are you a boy???!?!??!)
    Them:(idk what they will say cuz idk if it will be a boy or a girl)
    Us:ARE YOU POSITIVE?!?!?!?
    Them:Um…ya
    Us:Double check!!!
    Them:……………………………)

    LOL that would be SOOOOOO funny!!!

  18. lol you girls are WAY too funny :] and i dont think you need to interrogate them, (sorry if i misspelled that). Lol

    and eva-la, id totally read it too! Lol

  19. you guys are fruit noobs.

    and so is scott westerfeld, unfortunately 😉

    you can get rambuttans (i can’t spell – sorryy) in one of those syruppy fruit tin thingies, like you get pineapples sometimes.

    they’re just as nice, but make sure you eat em chilled.

    mmm yummy

  20. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HUNTED IS OUT TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HAVE TO GO TO BARNES AND NOBLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOUSE OF NIGHT IS THE BEST BOOK SERIES I’VE EVER READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  21. Jay-wa:: Thanks and yea if you guys are like writing to tell me something just put Eclipse cause i am kinda slow alot and when i skim through cooments I see Eclipse and stop but not w/ Perfect*♥*Mistake

    Ok I reaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllly want to say 3 things

    1_I sooooo want to read Hunted but I forbid myself to ruin it cause I’ve only read Marked.
    2_Thanks to everyone who said they like my new name cause like I can not remember all of you but no oofense……
    3_Is it too soon for me to have a boyfriend again cause this guy asked me out and I like him but I don’t know if its too soon….

    OKIE DOKIE i think that is all for now oh yea and I vote to interrigate the new peoples

  22. hahahaha jeeze alex-wa. You sound like my mom and little sister when their favorite book, (will not be mentioned because of the drama it causes), came out!! Lol. Then again thats probably how i’ll be when city of glass comes out. Too funny.

    Eclipse, i wish i knew how to do those heart thingys. I was never much of an online person til i found this site, lol, so i didn’t know that was possible until i saw your name!! Lol

    And if you girls do interrogate, is it just boys or new people in general? If just boys, i’m out. If all new people, i’m totally in!!!

  23. Lala-wa, I can’t wait for City of Glass to come out! I love the mortal instrument series! Wows, Amy-la you have lots of secret identities!

  24. whoa… Ditto t&z. Super long name… So who are you really amy-la?lol. And i love the mortal instruments! I thought i was the only one on here who read them! Its nice to know im not too out of the loop. And i just realized that house of night was the series i qas gonba start a while ago but i was convinced to get wimpy kid instead. Super bogus. Now i need to catch up so i can see why alex-wa goes nuts about them. Lol.

  25. I don’t ever think that I could eat something like that… That’s sad cause I am not a risk taker… I guess that Scott really made a point there!

  26. Ok so if we DO interrogate(oops) people I think we should ask everyone.And we have to like…..have no one say anything about it to the new people.
    Deal?

    Lol i think we might scare a few people off though…
    hahahahah

  27. Ha, yes. The Mortal Instrument Series pwns. Ha! Emi-la, I promise not to say anything, but if they have the sense to look a few posts up they just MIGHT find out. Lol.

  28. Lala-wa, read, and you will see. You will see. I remember how crazy I used to be over Book-which-must-not-be-named. But the crazy hype just ruined it. Ruined it, I tell you! Now I can’t stand to even see the poster. It drives me sooo crazy. They totally ruined it. It’s just so sad… It really used to be a great book…

  29. hey everyone! i just read the Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and i fell in love w/it!!!! its amazing! i almost cried at the end while Ponyboy was reading Johnny’s letter!!!! if u haven’t read this book u should =D bye 4nowww

  30. bahahahahaha alex-wa, you crack me up. Lol yes i agree with you on the whole hype thing. I’m glad the second version didn’t come out and can only be read online. Now i will admit i love THAT story. Lol. But im totally working on getting HON.

    Emi-la, i promise too, and if we write enough comments, i dont think theyd bother to read sll the way up here, so comment away.

    Ashley-wa, bethany-la, you guys make me feel old :[ i used to watch that movie as a little girl. I read that a LONG time ago, i only remember the movie now. Sad story. She’s an awesome writer to be a woman and portray the lives of young men.

  31. oh and reagan, not being a risk taker is totally fine. I think he means it on more of a metaphorical(excuse my spelling) way. Not that you should eat all the weird fruits that comes your way(which would be totally fawesome), but just not to be so closed minded or at least realize the worlds a lot bigger than the city, state, or nation you live in. Especially if you’re a writer. You know? [theres my unasked-for-long-opinion-that-doesnt-really-matter-again! Sorry peoples.]

  32. lala-wa: that was a very nice unasked-for-long-opinion-that-doesnt-really-matter-again, but also a nice sum up of the post. 😀

    I need some book titles (Alex-wa, I saw HUNTED at meijer [fawesome cover btw] and immediately thought of you and the westerbloggians) but not series ’cause i can only get a couple books…:( but any suggestions are good. Insightful books!! yay

    Is the City of Glass like the City of Bones? Or am I totally missing?
    (tomorrow I have a late school start! righteous!)

    Awesome Idea to you-know-what the new people.

    And, on the book-that-shall-not-be-named topic, I have a poster of Him and defaced it. (Only because he looked like a pedophile.)

    Everyone have a nice evening/day.

  33. lol thanks jay-wa. Lol and yes city of glass is the third one and it comes out on tge 24th :] WAY excited! But good deal with the you-know-what. I think emi-las starting it. Right? Or are we waiting for enough posts to get to where people wont read up where we explained it? Lol. Just wondering.

  34. oh and quick question, do you think there will be a crazy hype over uglies? Like if theres a movie, blah blah blah, do you think itll turn out like Book-which-must-not-be-named?

  35. Jay-wa So my favorite books ( that arn’t a series) are:
    1.Scrambled Eggs at Midnight(Brad Barkly and Heather Hepler)
    One of the BEST BOOKS EVER!!! Its soooo funny and sweet….
    2.Things Not Seen and Things Hoped for(Andrew Clemets)
    I think Things Hoped For is best but…ya.It is ranked equal to Scarmbled Eggs at Midnight.
    3.The Truth about Forever.(Sarah Dessen)
    Totally amazing read!!!! I love how Wesly brings Macy out of her….almost shell but its more like a crust of perfection.(lol that sounds weird!)
    4.Rules(Cynthia Lord)
    You may think this is a little-kid book but it is soooo deep.I loved it.
    5.This Lullaby(Sarah Dessen)
    Yet ANOTHER great Sarah Dessen book!!

    6.The Invention Of Hugo Cabret
    This is one of the most A-M-A-Z-I-N-G boos EVER!!!It is worth the price! TRUST ME!!!!

    So there you go Jay-wa(Wait ok.. i hate to as but I ( i know a boy Jay and a Girl Jay) So?Boy girl?)(giggles)there are the best of the best,Non-series, books on my cellection!!

    Lala-wa Thank you!!!!

  36. Tally&Zane,Jay-wa,Alex-wa(take huge breath)What book do you speak of when you talk about The-book-which-must-not-be-named?

    i don’t get it…….(crys in self pity)

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