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. The book that just had a movie come out that has TONS of fangirls and has 4 books in the series and…uh…an apple on the cover. DON’T say it though!

  2. wow emi-la! Awesome list! Im so going to have to read some of those. and its actually 4 1/2 in the series girls. The last one doesnt really count cuz its not published, but still its better than the rest. And im so scared that if uglies becomes a movie people will go crazy like with the-book-which-must-not-be-named!! Now i know why bethany-la gets possesive… Lol. Itll totally kill it for me :[

  3. Emi-la: Thank you for the list! The titles sound good even..

    And I’m a girl. Jay is just a nick-name.

    lala-wa: I don’t think that Uglies will get over-hyped because we’re all responsible, normal teenagers…(*laughs*) mostly. What’s most important is people read the books, so if you live somewhere and Uglies is coming out whenever, just don’t scream a lot.


  4. I’m typing this from home…I can’t go to school cuz my cold/sore throat turned into bronchitis. Not fun.
    I’ll make a book list too!
    (Not in any particular order of awesomeness, they’re all great.)

    -The DeVouring by Simon Holt
    (It’s freaking AMAZING. What really made me love it was just one paragraph on page 201. Up intil then, I just thought it was good. After that, fantastic.)
    -The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    (What can I say? The raw emotions that run through it and the suspense keep you reading and reading.)
    -Zombie Blondes by Brian James
    (I’ll never look at a cheerleader the same way again…*shudders* lol.)
    -Tithe by Holly Black
    (Awesome book of faeries. I fell in love with Roiben. Evil faeries are kickarse too. If you don’t mind some cussing and stuff in the beginning, then definitely READ IT.)
    -Ironside by Holly Black
    (Same as my feelings for Tithe. It comes after it though in the series.)
    -I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder[I think that’s how you spell her name]
    (It’s a book that’s written in poetry form, but it’s still a story that flows perfectly. It’s magnificent.)
    -The Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz
    (Great plotline plus a hot teenage British spy. How can you not love it? Seriously, one of the best series I’ve read.)
    -The Mortal Instrument Series by Cassandra Clare
    (It’s completely captivating right from the start. Why have only one or two fantasy creatures in your story? She has practically all the main ones, and gave em a certain pizzazz that makes me want to laugh and bow down too. rofl.)
    -The Maximum Ride Series by James Patterson
    (Amaazzziiinnngggg. I love it. Right when you think you’ve got it all figured out, Mr. Patterson flips that world upside down.)
    -The Road of The Dead by Kevin Brooks
    (Great great great. The motivation is just awe-inspiring. And it’s a whole different world that I practically was unaware of set right into our own.)
    -And of course, ALL of Scott’s books.

    Sorry, I think I got a little carried away…hehe….

  5. Attention One and All!!! I have created a blog. It is in my little blue name. It also links to my other sites (twitter, youtube, daily booth) and what not. All may read! Weee, so get to it!

  6. Bethany-la, it won’t let me comment! It says something like Your open id credentials could not be varified…weird.

  7. Weird…. Is the “comment as” box on OpenID? If so, I don’t think it should be. I think that’s some sort of website or something. I think you need a google, livejournal, wordpress, typepad, or openid account in order to comment. That’s dumb.

  8. Deep, Scott-la, very deep. I will definately keep that piece of advise in mind and be sure to try hairy eye-ball fruit first chance I get!;-)

  9. T&Z: I love Alex Rider and Maximum Ride!!! I just got the Max Ride manga the other day, and it is so fawesome! (except for Fang’s hair. It’s really long and kinda makes him look like a girl) 😛 I want to read Zombie Blondes, but my library doesn’t have it and if I saw it at a bookstore along with a book by an author I already like, I would have to gte the book by the author I already like.

    Bethany-la: Nice blog! I left a comment. 😀

  10. Tally&Zane: Thank you for the list! I’ll look into those! Maximum Ride rocks!

    Bethany-la: I’ll check out your blog when I can..(One computer, one geek[me] and two eBay obsessed freaks[not the good freaks either, my parents]) so…

    Dahlia-wa: My friend let me borrow her Maximum Ride manga, and fang’s hair is girlishly long..but it’s pretty good otherwise!


  11. Bethany-la: I like your layout…and standardized tests always have the most bogus prompts. Nice lie though, very believable. How’s the Private series? (I got privilege[the first book in the next series] it has to do with Ariana, and is vastly good.)

  12. Aw, I want the Max Ride Manga SOOO bad! But everytime I go to Borders they don’t have it! It makes me so sad!

  13. Lol, thanks everyone.

    Jay-wa: The Private series is really good. It’s about Reed. I don’t know how privilage is in comparison to it though, because I haven’t read it yet. But you should read the Private series.

  14. hi bethany-la! When i can get on your blog, i will.

    I havent read that book though. My brothers liked it so i never thought id like it. I’ll have to read it now. Jeeze you girls put up so many book names i feel totally out of the loop. I’ll have to get workin on it, as soon as im ungrounded from reading. Lol

  15. Tally&Zane-YOu konw you can always order stuff online at ?
    I do it alll the time.Also,that sucks.How long do you think it will tak eyou to get back to school?

  16. Lala-wa, your grounded from reading? Wow. I love Maximum Ride, too! It’s awsome! It’s in my top list. I don’t really like manga, though. Just not my thing.

  17. The cast section is a little messed up, I know. Oh, and people, PLEASE give me some ideas on an Uglies movie poster! I have NO idea what to do! And if you have an idea, I may need help with doing it… idk, it just depends…

  18. Yeah, I know Emi-la. I don’t have a credit card though, and my parents cut me off from buying books with their money cuz I spend too much. So I have to use my own, and I only have cash. I’ll prolly be able to convince them though. I’ll try and think of something Alex-wa! I’ve been totally creative-missing lately though!

  19. The cast section is fixed! And I added an ad for Dazzle-making, an awsome podcast about Uglies and Book-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named!
    Do you know how hard it was for me to type… you know what book… in the ad??? It was real hard!!! But I had to do it, or it would be mean… lol. I can’t belive I used to be obsessed with You know what. Now I can’t even bare to see the name!!! Lol, it’s just so sad, yet again…
    Oh, the link to their website is messed up… I’m on it…

  20. lol ya alex-wa. Im grounded til sunday. Super bogus, but i already agreed to the terms. Jeeze its harder than you think. And i’ll totally think of an idea, but im super creative-missing, so i might not be much help anyways…

  21. I don’t believe in failing yourself as a writer for not describing the taste of said “hairy eyeball fruit”.

    Take pity upon those who make three attempts on trying to spell “believe” correctly, then finnaly give up because the red squiggly line on their iMacs keep appearing, and cannot right click, because the mouse has no right-clicky button.

    I think i finally spelled it right though…

    But now how many can say “I eat hairy eyeballs and I like it” ?

    I shall do a cheerleadin jump for thou, Mister Scott!

  22. I’m reading How to Ditch Your Fairy, and it’s very confusing!! Spoffs? Pulchy? Doos? I’m VERY confused!! I have NO idea what any of those mean!!! Well, for spoffs, I sort of have an idea… it’s just weird!! I’m not diggin the lingo. But I’m still readin…

  23. Alex-wa: I had a little trouble understanding the slang too, until I found the lexicon in the back. It was so helpful! I love the HTDYF slang (now that I understand it)! 😀

    Click my name. 😀

  24. lol, i need that book! i went to look for it here, and its no where!!!! ugh. i hate living in a place where nothing comes out til years later!!! jeeze, it sucks.

  25. Okay guys, after MUCH STRESS AND CRAZINESS!!!!!!!, my site has FINNALLY been updated!!! Check it out! There is a new page!!! The Soundtrack page has been moved, and now it is right next to the Movie page. Check it out!

  26. That’s because I’m constantly on the computer. Almost always!! That’s why. I always am checking this site, so I always see other people’s comment’s right away, you know?

  27. 😥 I just watched the saddest episode of Dog Town ever. 😥 One of the dogs died! It was so sad! I cried! 😥 Usually the show is full of adorbale dogs that have behavior problems but end up getting adopted in the end. But this one was just sad! 🙁 It reminded me of my old dog, who **** when he was 13. 😥

  28. Guys!!! It’s Friday the 13th!!!! So, the usual quesiton… does anyone here have paraskevidekatriaphobia? This day will occur once more this year, in November. 3 times is the most Friday the 13th can occur in a year. Hehe. So this year is sorta unusual… Hehe

  29. Perfect Mistake: Well, it depends on what you want to change it to. If you want a special layout from Pyzam or something else, you’ll have to get the code for the new background, go to Edit HTML and erase all the old code, then paste the new code in.
    If you just want a new layout from Blogger, then go to Change Layout.

  30. I wrote this after a family happening and learning a little more about ‘Sexting’. Its called Naïve and Oblivious. Hope you like!

    They think it’s cool,
    The way that they speak.
    They think it’s funny,
    They don’t know it will leak.

    Things get around,
    And images are found.
    They claim they don’t know,
    But we saw the whole show.

    Naïve and oblivious,
    These are their names.
    Keep going along,
    Keep playing your games.

    But what you may not get,
    Is that the acts are not legit.
    What you might have not thought,
    Is we are onto your plot.

    Stop it right now,
    This act is so crazy.
    With all of this drama,
    Your future is hazy.

  31. hooray for friday the 13th!!! anti-darkling day!!
    and also tomorrow, 3/14, is pi day! you know, 3.14…
    yes i am a nerd…very much so…proud of it 😀

  32. My Steel wings
    wings that fly high
    above earth and sky
    above all the people
    away from all of the hate,
    but also all of the love
    to get away, far away
    to be set free from all of the cruelty and hate;
    that has so much sway, on us all
    our world filled with all of this violence and hatred,
    is also filled with love, compassion,
    and most importantly
    to get away from it all,
    the fear, pressure and hate would be nice
    but to leave behind everything,
    everything that is good in this world;
    like hope,
    would be wrong
    hope, is in a child’s eyes on Christmas day
    hope and love lies in the tears that come from a mother by her son’s side while he lay stricken ill,
    love and compassion , comes from your one soul mate and best companion
    To get away on steel-like wings,
    to fly away from it all,
    that would be fine with me;
    Then i start to think and realize
    how much i would lose
    I’d miss the chance to experience love, hope, joy compassion;
    everything good that the world has to offer, that outweighs the bad
    to get away, lies not with the ability to use those wings,
    but with ability to find the greatness,
    hidden in a world full of hate
    i decide to stay,
    for all of the happiness, hidden in this complex place
    but choose those steel-like wings to help me,
    help me, vanish all of the hate in my world
    I get away but not from all of the good.

    Wrote this to help out a friend. Hope you guys like it.

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