CTS Entry: Gritty


Natural:

Dirt
Mud
Sand
Morning eye gunk
Tartar on teeth
Dried tears
Thick dust coating a counter, shelf or knick-knack
Coffee grounds
Pepper
Dirty drinking water
Crushed gravel
Sawdust
Peanut shell 'dust'
Crushed sea shells
Chicken feed
Pollen
Dried sweat
Blowing ice pellets/snow
Poppy seeds
Pumice
Sandstone
Fruit and berries with edible seeds (kiwifruit, raspberries, dragon fruit, etc)
Sand dollars
Tiny crystals


Man-made:

Toothpaste
Sandpaper
Sugar
Salt
Nail file/buffer
Facial scrubs (exfoliation)
Egg shells dropped in food
Chip crumbs (brushing them off a shirt, fingers, lips)
Bread crumbs on a tablecloth
Debris on a floor
Cookie crumbs
Dried on food
Brown sugar
Parmesan cheese shaker
Spices
Whole wheat germ flour
Wet cement
Drinking form a dirty glass with dishwasher gunk at the bottom
Old ice cream (freezer burn)
Crushed cookies or crackers
Cornmeal
Rock blanket
Cat litter
Natural soaps
Laundry soap
Jell-o crystals
Glitter
Fertilizer
Blended ice drinks (Margaritas, coffee drinks, Slurpee's
Grout
Epsom salts, bath crystals/salts, seasoning salt

Synonyms:

Mealy, coarse-textured, tophaceous, rough, sandy, granular, grit, grainy

Describing texture in a story creates intimacy between reader and character, and can even cause an emotional trigger for both. To anchor the reader in the scene, make sure comparisons and contrasts are clear and relatable, and within the scope of the narrator's life knowledge and experience.

A weak example:

He bent over double, coughing and hacking, dropping the reins to prop his hands on his knees. A breeze from Hell tickled his sweating skin, coating him with a layer of dirt. He wiped his face, removing the fine grains and a bit of skin with it. He kicked the parched ground, sending up a tornado of dust. What was the point of trying to seed this desert?

What's wrong with this example?

The comparisons are over-done. A breeze from Hell, the dirt actually removing skin from his face, a tornado of dust from a simple boot scuff...all are comparisons that could be good if they were toned down. As is, they give the passage a feeling of melodrama that makes it unbelievable.

A strong example:

The gale whipped my hair into a frenzy of knots and tried to knock me off my feet. I braced myself, head bowed against the blowing ocean spray. The winds were nearly hurricane force now, strong enough to scour my skin with the sand they carried. I closed my eyes, felt the sting of raindrops like persistent guests banging on the windows. Stumbling, I made my way back inside to bar the door.

Why does this example work?

The comparisons are realistic, matching both the narrator's voice and the context.

6 comments:

T. Anne said...

This reminds me of the first time I read WHITE OLEANDER by Janet Fitch. I was struck by the intense narrative, the way she was able to weave together her analogies in an odd poetic manner and yet it worked because it fit the mood and the character.

If done the wrong way it could, no wait...it WILL ruin your work.

Nice post.

Jessica said...

Hmm. Good advice to have the voice matching the metaphors/similes/whatever they are. :-)

Becca said...

Thanks, Jessica.

T. Anne, I saw the White Oleander movie, but didn't read the book. It was good, I take it?

Christina Farley said...

Never would have thought of these metaphors. Interesting

Keri Mikulski said...

Interesting. I learned about natural and man made things.. I had no idea. :) Love the examples. Thanks!

Mary Witzl said...

I hate sandy, gritty stuff, so I read this through with a clenched jaw: reminds me of sanding furniture, or painting the kitchen once during the worst sandstorm of the year.

And I've just given up reading a book with overdone comparisons! Honestly, the author should have come here first to take a look at that weak example. He'd have learned plenty.

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