In the above quote, replace "designers" with "writers". Because writers are just people who design with words, right?
About a week ago, I finally got around to reading Divergent. (I know, I know, it took me long enough.) It was great in general, but one of the things it did reminded me of the Inkheart books -- both Roth and Funke use simple, everyday occurences -- even the most mundane of things -- to give the reader a sense of normalcy.
Example time -- first, from Inkheart:
" 'And, Meggie,' [Mo] said over his shoulder, 'you go back to sleep.' Then, without another word, he closed his workshop door.
Meggie stood there rubbing her cold feet together. Go back to sleep. Sometimes, when they'd stayed up late yet again, Mo would toss her down on her bed like a bag of walnuts. Sometimes he chased her around the house after supper until she escaped into her room, breathless with laughter. And sometimes he was so tired he lay down on the sofa and she made him a cup of coffee before she went to bed. But he had never ever sent her off to her room so brusquely."
"Dustfinger must have been waiting in the road beyond the wall. Meggie had picked her precarious way along the top of that wall hundreds of times, up to the rusty hinges of the gate and back again, eyes tightly closed so she could get a clearer view of the tiger she'd imagined waiting in the bamboo at the foot of the wall, his eyes yellow as amber, or the foaming rapids to her right and her left."
"Meggie was just throwing [the sparrows] the breadcrumbs she had found in her jacket pocket -- left over from a picnic on some long-forgotten day -- when the door suddenly opened."
"It was a strange feeling to be spying on Mo. She couldn't remember ever doing it before
-- except the night before, when Dustfinger had arrived. And the time when she had tried to find out whether Mo was Santa Claus."
Throughout these bits of story -- most of them slipped seamlessly into the main narrative of the novel -- you get a real sense of how life was before. Before the characters' lives went crazy, before the story itself started and everything changed. You get a glimpse into how close Meggie and Mo's father-daughter relationship is, how Mo isn't exactly the most responsible parent, but he loves Meggie and makes things fun. You see how Meggie used to climb the fence and imagine she was on adventures -- who hasn't played in their yard as a kid? -- and that she goes on picnics and leaves crumbs in the pockets and tried once to determine whether her dad was Santa. In these paragraphs, in relatively few words, Funke establishes the characters' lives before, to better show how they change after, and again, sets a normal background that makes it easier to believe the fantastic, sometimes unrealistic things that're going to happen.
Divergent did the same thing for me:
"We walk together to the kitchen. On these mornings when my brother makes breakfast, and my father's hand skims my hair as he reads the paper, and my mother hums as she clears the table -- it is on these mornings that I feel guiltiest for wanting to leave them."
"[M]y brother made breakfast this morning, and my father made dinner last night, so it's my turn to cook."
"We sit at the table. We always pass food to the right, and no one eats until everyone is served. My father extends his hands to my mother and my brother, and they extend their hands to him and me, and my father gives thanks to God for food and work and friends and family."
And then there's the example Tris goes back to the most -- her mother trimming Tris's hair. It's mentioned several times, so I won't pick an example. Throughout Divergent, these pieces of background information show how her family interacts and works, which is really complex, given their dystopian world's customs and standards. Family plays a large part in Divergent and Inkheart, and I think that shows.
Both authors managed this well --- a light-handed sprinkling of background information, of the characters' pasts, that isn't forced or heavy. It feels so natural that it also makes the world seem normal, real, and to me, that's important in a book.
Agreed, or no? What books have you read that had the same effect as these?