The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What I Did for the Muse

Hatchet           Gary Paulsen is one of the most prolific authors around. He writes mostly books for kids in upper elementary/middle school. His most well-known book is probably Hatchet.  The novel is about a young boy who is on a small plane when the pilot has a heart attack and dies. Brian must land the plane and then figure out how to survive out in the wilderness (with mostly just a hatchet) until people figure out he's gone. (He's out there for a long time...It would be complicated to explain I actually don't remember why no one figured out he was missing for a while. But they didn't.)

       Gary, in real life, had a rough life. He slept on a mattress on the floor of his family's basement, he had to hunt (because he was fond of eating, and his parents didn't consistently provide him with food) and he even hunted and trapped so he could afford clothes and supplies for school. He grew to love the outdoors, and as an adult continues to have adventures in the wilderness, incuding running sled dogs for many years.  

        What is the point of this drivel? Come on! Get to it!

        As Gary was writing Hatchet, he had Brian go fishing, since Brian was starving. If a person is mildly hungry, they'll eat the Mrs.-Paul's-Captain-D's part of the fish we all eat. But, Paulsen asserted, if a person has been hungry for days, they will eat all of the fish. Even the eyeballs.

       Because he's a conscientious writer, Paulsen wanted to make sure he described the eating of the eyeballs in a way that would ring true. And what better way than to eat an eyeball?

         He was out with his sled dogs one day, went fishing, and popped one of the fish eyeballs into this mouth. It was so disgusting, he immediately threw up. One of this dogs was thrilled with this snack, and started gobbling up the vomit. That made Paulsen throw up all over again. 

           This story is in Paulsen's book Guts. In this memoir he tells of being attacked by a crazy moose, about the time he shot a deer and had to ride it home on his bicycle, and many more marvelous tales. It especially appeals to boys. But it's also a writer's book. There are several stories where the reader gets to get inside his head and examine his motivation. 

What would you be interested in experiencing in order to make your writing more realistic?


  1. Hmmm...well, not eating eyeballs, that's for sure! Nothing too crazy for me--I need to shoot a gun and learn how to ride a motorcycle. A sail on an 18th century schooner would be a handy, too. And I should probably eat lots of chocolate. For research. Yeah. That's right. For research. :)

  2. Wow, was this ever fascinating!! Especially since I know Hatchet so well! Oh, and I think experiencing a month-long tour through Europe would improve my writing considerably.


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