Sep 13 2010

Grasshopper Crunch

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I took a great trip to Virden, New Mexico last week with a friend – partly a leisure trip to learn about processing fresh, farm-grown green chilis, and partly a “field research” trip for my novel.

Along the way, on Rt. 70 – somewhere between Duncan and Safford – I began to notice what looked like debris all over the highway. As we continued, the debris became even more heavily concentrated, like scattered cigars all along the road.

To my chagrin, I realized we were crunching over a mass exodus of grasshoppers as they passed from one creosote-studded plain to another. There was literally no way to avoid running them over.

This grasshopper, just like the ones on the road, was encountered at the final destination point (Kathy’s mom’s). These grasshoppers-on-steroids are about five times bigger than the PA grasshopper of my youth. Seeing them up close somehow made them much more intimate to me. Click to enlarge.

Once in Virden, we took a convertible ride through the small farming town. This exposure to the open air was spectacular, drawing us closer to beautiful rock outcroppings, the Gila River and blue skies. But it also added a new element to my grasshopper experience. Unfortunately, now I could hear the sound of their hard-shelled bodies and wings pinging off the underside of the car as we hit a stray one here and there (they were much less abundant in this area). For someone who likes to rescue and admire bugs, the entire ‘grasshopper event,’ was disturbing… even despite being quickly reassured by the locals that the grasshoppers are destructive, evil pests to the farmer.

For Writers: Never underestimate the power of using sensory detail in your novel – especially sound. As gory as it is, I can still “hear” the click and snap of those poor grasshoppers as they crunched under the tires, and clanged under the wheel wells of the car. If I were going for a macabre description that left an impression in my readers’ minds, this would surely work.

Earlier this week when I was interviewing a funeral home director as part of my research, I was reminded again of how vital ‘sound’ descriptions are to the novel. This gentleman shared a defining moment in his career that was intensified by the sound of metal instruments dropping on a porcelain embalming table.

Sensory description that includes sound is just one more way to reach your reader and leave a lasting impression … disturbing or melodic.

2 Responses to “Grasshopper Crunch”

  • K Says:

    Wow! Having the ability to express your feelings with words is a true talent. I must say, for me, the crunch of the grasshopper does not bring the same sense of sentiment. Then again, reading your blog, opens the awareness that it is life and the coming and going of it is our constant reminder of mortality.


    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    My turn to say “wow.” Well said, K… You have succinctly captured the essence of this post: “Life, and the coming and going of it, is our constant reminder of mortality.” Thanks for your continued comments. Much appreciated!


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