Blog

terroir

This past week I've been having one of those dream-like moments where it feels like a word is everywhere. I've been reading a bunch of food magazines (Lucky Peach, Food & Wine--side note, the name of Food and Wine is so funny to me. Whenever I think about it, I picture a group of people who can't choose some much fancier name. And finally someone just says f it, let's just call it what it's about) and recently learned what the word terroir means.

At least with wine, it's the confluence of weather, soil, care that gives a wine its distinctiveness. 

This morning I was reading more of Authority and terroir came up again. This time it was in discussion of Area X. I know the books have been out for two years now and I guess I don't need to be that cautious, but to be very brief and as not spoilery as possible: Area X is a mysterious, liminal area. It is and isn't explainable. By mysterious circumstances, it appeared. People explore it. Etc. 

Beyond the thrill of seeing the word terroir again, it made me think about how good of a word it is to describe two different concepts in fiction. One, which I think I might write a craft essay about, is character and creating one that feels rich and vivid. The other thing is I think it's an excellent way to talk to an undergraduate writer about cliches. 

At least when I was teaching undergrads, there were always students who felt super wary or even afraid of writing cliches. Sometimes it would lead to writer's block. Sometimes it would end up leading to trying so hard to be original that their stories  were incomprehensible as a whole because so many techniques were stuffed into the pages.  I think having a student-writer create a sense of their writing terroir (their influences, their favorite styles, their hometown, an image that they can't shake, something else because I'm just thinking while typing, something that feels like it could be a writing cliche that they've actually experienced), might help to work against that.

Also, I've finally started reading The Southern Reach Trilogy and have been too unsettled to fall asleep at my usual time twice this week. It's been great!