Summer Saturday mornings are meant for lazing in bed. Perfection would dictate my husband brings me coffee… but life isn’t always perfect. On a recent Saturday morning, I abandoned my usual write-in-bed routine and turned on the television. After Food Network shows repeated every thirty minutes, drawing me in for longer than intended, I started wondering about recipes for writing.
Many authors swear by handed-down rules for writing, such as Lynn Reynolds explains in her article, How to Use the Hero’s Journey to Structure Your Novel. https://liminalpages.com/use-heros-journey-structure-novel/ She shares the tried and true concept of the “hero’s journey” story structure created by Joseph Campbell and further explored by Christopher Vogler.
The article is short and well worth reading as it nutshells the basic ingredients for success. Every fantasy, science fiction, or speculative fiction story needs a hero (although such heroes can be nontraditional). First, the hero needs a goal. Then, most essential, the hero must pass through a cycle of experiences changing his or her inner and outer self in the journey attaining the goal. Voila! It’s been done uniquely thousands of times, and like every good recipe, holds up over time.
I’ve taken several classes where similar story structures have been taught. Among the most common is the 3-Act Story Structure. The history of this concept goes w-a-y back to Aristotle, but not only his early observations as he saw it at the time, but the workings of many greats over the years molding the idea of a beginning, middle, and end to where it is today. Simply put; the main ingredients include Act I – set up, Act II – development, and Act III – climax and resolution. This article from Screentakes, A History of Three-Act Structure, https://www.screentakes.com/an-evolutionary-study-of-the-three-act-structure-model-in-drama/, is intriguing as it illustrates the cyclical growth of the 3-Act story structure throughout dramatists and theorists from centuries past.
However, the Food Network shows and their “easy how-to instructions aiding in either healthy or indulging lifestyles (or both)” proceeded in my bedroom. Not only was I physically hungry, I couldn’t help but see the similarities and differences between the show’s recipes and writing. Every host of a show has his or her own spin on a similar recipe.
One chef adds a touch of vinegar, another adds a pinch of brown sugar, while still another adds Tequila. In the end they all wind-up as barbeque sauce. Of course, in sampling the end-results, each would taste slightly different (some extremely different), though still barbeque sauce. And even with the most extreme recipe, where Grandma would shake her head, believing to her core the shift of ingredients has ruined the heart of the dish, there is always that eclectic family member who can’t get enough of it.
Lesson learned from Saturday morning Food Network television (in place of writing) time? Gather basic ingredients, because they’ve worked since the beginning of time… just don’t be afraid to add tequila (or any other interesting flavors).
We all have our own takes on similar story ideas, and there’s an audience for all of them, we just have to discover who they are. For me , it’s time for breakfast before planning some hungrily-inspired writing time. Bon Appetit, and here’s to cookin’ up great stories (along with an occasional lazy Saturday morning).
Writing Advice: What’s your “Story-Recipe?”
If you had to write down a recipe for your own WIP, how would it read? Something like…
Seam Keepers Casserole (my YA Contemporary Fantasy novel)
1 dose of mystery the night before the story begins
2 cups of character introductions in the midst of their typical lives
2 pinches of character goals folded in
1 dash of flashbacks to the mysterious occurrence the night before the story begins
2 pounds of (cold) antagonist wreaking havoc in attempts to separate the characters banding together
3 pints of adventures as trouble interrupts the character’s lives to the point of no return
1 cup (sifted) new world beckons… realms the characters had no idea existed
2 dollops of external obstacles forging new internal strengths in characters
1 heaping tablespoon of climax involving life and death (for characters and man/womankind)
2 ounces of characters abandoning all they thought they wanted before for what’s really important now
½ cup conclusions… with room for a second batch
Mix all ingredients in the order they appear on the recipe. Fold gently in the beginning, then more vigorously in the middle until a stiff batter forms. Finally, pour the mixture into a 9×13 inch glass baking dish and bake in a 350-degree oven for a l-o-n-g time (each casserole bakes for a unique length of time). You will know it’s done when the edges are golden-crisp and the center bubbles with gooey deliciousness.
Serve with your favorite cup of coffee or glass of wine, curl up in bed, and enjoy!
~By Celaine Charles, August 19, 2018
Content and Image Links:
https://www.pinterest.com/explore/saturday-coffee/ (Saturday morning in bed)
https://www.giantbomb.com/monomyth/3015-4860/games/ (The Hero’s Journey)
https://paddle8.com/work/damien-hirst/79136-butterfly-spin-painting (Butterfly Spin Painting, by Damien Hirst)
https://blog.myfitnesspal.com/christmas-morning-casserole/ (casserole dish)
Categories: Thoughts on writing...
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