A few years ago, in one of my monthly newsletters (now morphed into The Goodweather Report blog,) I posted a closeup picture of a rather attractive fuzzy caterpillar, calling particular attention to his cute little pink feet.
As always, I had some email comments on my newsletter and there was a memorable one from my agent who took exception to my calling the caterpillar feet (or, indeed, the caterpillar) adorable.
In fact, my agent's response was so amazing that I copied it to a file where I keep ideas for future use. And when I came to write Under the Skin, I used the response pretty much verbatim. putting it into the mouth of Elizabeth's sister Gloria who -- like my agent -- is no nature girl.
In the following scene, Elizabeth and her sister are at the beginning of a spa and seance weekend -- rather against Elizabeth's wishes.
--- As we walked up the path leading to the inn, I stopped by a high-arching clump of grass to admire a fuzzy yellow caterpillar teetering at the end of a glossy green blade. He had reared up and his tiny pink feet – the front six of them – were questing in search of their next step.
“Glory, come look at this guy and his adorable little feet!” It was worth a try, I thought. I’ll learn to love Dead Sea Salt exfoliation and maybe Gloria can get a little appreciation for Nature.
My sister leaned down to see my find, wrinkling her nose in fastidious disgust. “Adorable? Those creepy little feet? If you killed that thing and stuck it with pins to some sort of board and looked at it under a microscope, you would see that those feet are anything but ‘adorable’ – they are vile little buggy mutant feet that look really gross close up.”
She glanced at her watch. “We’ve got forty minutes before dinner – you can stay and visit with your yucky little friend; I’m going to go have a bath.” ---
The butterfly pictures are for my agent -- she thinks butterflies are gross too. You can imagine how she feels about snakes.
But that's one of the revelations about writing -- if one just pays attention, there's a whole world of interesting material out there!