See these small red spheres? Visiting them made me ridiculously happy. Why? Because one of my characters in my latest novel manuscript is a cranberry grower and even though I’ve tapped into an abundance of information via the Internet, nothing beats wind in your face, mud on your shoes, real life research. On a homeschooling field trip with my daughter the other day, I got to do just that.
This cranberry-growing character of mine isn’t the central character. Not even close. But he is, in his own quiet way, critical to the story. Several key scenes take place on his farmhouse and bog so I wanted to get the details right.
I got to ask all sorts of unconventional questions on the field trip: What do the cranberries look like in August? How does it feel to wade into the marsh? What does the owner do throughout the day?
A few other details that set my heart racing: Cranberries bounce when they’re ripe. How happy is that? Frogs live in abundance on the marsh. From an aerial viewpoint, cranberry beds are as orderly and organized as a giant grid. If you don’t protect the vine from freezing temperatures with water and/or sand, the cranberries die.
And this is what I love about writing (and homeschooling now that I think about it): it makes you sit up and take stock. Pay attention to things easily overlooked. This fall, instead of merely mindlessly grabbing a can of cranberries to set beside my turkey, I had the chance to pop a just plucked sour beyond all get-out crimson berry into my mouth. And that small action, I hope, makes me a better writer.