Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Keep It Natural: Write in Layers, Make Soup

Back in the dark ages of the 1970s, the goal for wearing makeup was to appear as if one wasn't wearing any makeup, which was dubbed, "the natural look."

Or consider this: how many times have you watched a performance or demonstration and you thought to youself, "I could do this." That's because the performer has perfected the act so well and seamlessly, it seems effortless.

In cooking, you build flavor by many subtle blends of ingredients. In writing, you build characters and worlds by many subtle layers of details.

Just as you wouldn't dump a shakerful of Italian blend into your soup and call it seasoned, you can't immerse a reader into your story by tossing info dumps at him and calling it character or world-building.

Writing a novel is a lot like making soup.

First, you start with a rich stock. To make the stock, you need the following: a plot, some characters, a place, a time period, the hows and whys
Brown that plot under the heat of your muse. Add the characters and a place and let it simmer in your mind.

Decide what vegetables you'd like in your soup: these are the details of your story, your first draft.

Add seasoning: Close plot holes, tighten wordiness, add descriptions, strengthen certain points, cut scenes. At his point, many cooks (writers) think they're done.

But that does not make good soup...or a novel.

The real secret is in the seasoning.

Go back and taste your soup: This means, walk away from the story (again), come back, and read it. Maybe you need just a touch more of garlic. Maybe the soup needs a little thyme. Maybe you have too much salt, and you add a cubed potato to absorb it.

Perhaps a scene needs the addition of a couple words to make a room visible, a scent smelled, a voice heard, a peach tasted, the ache in tired limbs felt.

Barely perceptible, these are the elements that will keep your reader glued to your story.

No comments: