Last week I popped Katherine Applegate‘s middle-grade novel in verse, Home of the Brave, into my car’s CD player, and found myself mesmerized by the writing. It was so good, I had to get the book in print so that I could read—not just listen—and savor her choice of words.
Applegate’s protagonist is a Sudanese boy who struggles to adjust to life in America. Rather than using descriptive language common to Americans, Applegate infuses the novel with a Sudanese sensibility. The boy’s observations include:
- a cloth…soft as new grass after a good rain
- pleading eyes that shine at you like river rocks in the sun
- [an optimist] finds sun when the sky is dark
- snowflakes tap at the window like stubborn mosquitoes.
Such organic writing! These images grow out of the character and his experiences.
An author’s job is to create a fictional world and—with words alone—invite and compel a reader to slip into it. The more organic the writing, the easier and faster the slip-slide happens…