It happens almost every evening in most kitchens; someone pulls ingredients from pantry and refrigerator and creates a meal worth eating. Something from… almost nothing. The same thing happens with writing; we grab a familiar scene and shape it into something worth reading.
As an exercise, take a familiar scene and write it. You can put yourself into it, or one of the characters you’ve already written. For instance, I was watching my partner make a salad for our evening meal. Salad making, in my opinion, is probably one of the dullest things to do in the kitchen. Cleaning out the fridge is more exciting, at least in our kitchen, mainly because we have NO idea what’s been going on in the far reaches until the torches and pitchforks start showing up and smoke billows out the door when I’m just looking for some milk for my coffee, and the next thing I know, a rogue band of leftovers and their feral veggies have teamed up and ambushed me before absconding with the kitchen compost bin…
Oh, sorry. Where was I, oh, yes, making salad.
Many years ago, a friend and I were talking about photography, and now annoying it was to realize the camera was sitting at home on the table (or in the clutches of some moldy meatloaf) when you’ve discovered something you want to remember. I said, “that’s where being a writer comes in handy, we can write the scene when we forget the camera.”
Sometimes, however, that same scene can become a little embellished (ie, my army of resurrected leftovers), so caution needs to be taken when we’re trying to record something for posterity.
Back to the scene. Again. I’m tired, and in case you hadn’t figured it out, I recently cleaned out the fridge and I’m still a little shocky over the ordeal. I watched T chopping the fresh veggies, making sure she kept the harder pieces of carrot and turnip a fairly uniform size. She continued to chop rhythmically, despite her own fatigue. Outside the kitchen window, the leaves of early summer were catching the late afternoon sun and standing proud against the ominous darkness of a passing raincloud. From the yard next door came the lulling drone of the lawnmower punctuated by birdsong and the constant “thup” of the knife on the cutting board. The fragrance of baking potatoes tantalized and my stomach growled.
That is how it was in real life, but how could I make it more interesting?
By putting myself in the character’s head, finding her thoughts and giving her more expression than I did in the previous paragraph.
Let’s try it:
– Her thoughts were as far from the faded yellow walls as they could be, and she longed with all her heart to be with them. But it was not to be, and as the despair settled across her shoulders, they bowed a little more, causing her to lean harder with the knife against the crisp flesh of the turnip.
Another storm approached, and this one would bring the riders. They would come in, demanding their meal and any information she had. She could not refuse, they would know if she held anything back, and they would take it from her.
Knocking the last of the vegetables into the pot, she stirred the ingredients and nodded. If she was going to escape, it would have to be tonight and there was only one way. Reaching far into the spice cabinet, she pulled out what appeared to be a discarded clump of herbs. Breaking off two leaves, she replaced the bundle and crumbled the rest into the pot of soup. A momentary discoloration faded and her tired smile turned sinister. –
Um, no, my partner is not planning on running away OR poisoning anyone. Just thought I’d mention that.
This is how a scene can be made. Everyday moments can feed the imagination, stoke the fires of inspiration, and allow the brain to take a vacation from the mundane and go someplace very different.
How about you? What daily dullness would you re-construct into something entertaining?