Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chocolate Meme: Writing is Like....

I finally got tagged for the Chocolate Meme that Green_Woman started!  Thanks to Eli Ashpence for tagging me.  You can find her blog here. 

Here’s the Meme beginning:

Forrest Gump’s momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” I suppose the same could be said of writing, but . . . since we’re writers, we feel compelled to come up with our own silly comparisons.
Hence the creation of the Box of Chocolates Writing Meme–in which you may compare writing to anything but a box of chocolates.
How does it work? Take the phrase “Writing is like . . .” and finish it. Post it on your blog. Tag three others to do the same. That is all.
See how easy that is?

I would like to acknowledge the wonderful website for the fantastic information about the ingredients that I wanted to compare to writing.  So here is my take on what writing is like.
Writing is like baking a cake.  A cake requires certain ingredients to perform in specific ways in order to make a cake that is delicious.  In some instances, all the ingredients can be there but the cake will not be as good as it could be.  It isn’t as moist as it should be or the flavor isn’t my favorite.  There could be a lot of reasons why I’m willing to try it but I won’t go back for a second piece. 

This is true for writing as well.  A story requires certain ingredients to perform in specific ways in order to make a book that is appetizing to the reader.  You can learn to bake and you can learn to write.  Practice is important, but practicing without understanding the ingredients and the job they have to perform just means the cakes (stories) never have a chance to get better.  You just do the same thing over and over.

Creating a story requires 3 Acts.  Baking a cake does too.  Act 1:  Mix the ingredients together, Act 2: bake the cake, and Act 3: Assemble the cake and apply the frosting. 


In Act 1 of baking a cake, it is necessary to bring the ingredients together and mix thoroughly.  Flour, for example plays a critical role in the creation of a cake.  Flour provides the body and structure.  It binds the ingredients together and supports the batter.  In writing, flour is the plot.  It’s the driving force behind the story.  It’s pervasive throughout and is necessary to cause changes.  Without a plot, it’s just a jumble of words.  Without flour, the cake doesn’t rise.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  You can have a flourless cake just like you can have a story with no plot.  It’s just really dense!

Sugar is the ingredient in the cake that adds volume, texture, even tenderness and color.  It also acts as a preservative.  In a story, details are the sugar.  You want just enough but not too much.  The details bond you to the characters.  The details enrich the story, providing volume and texture.  It helps you to understand the reasons for the characters behaviors, feelings, and actions.  It brings the location of the story to life.

Eggs are needed in a cake and are structural in purpose too.  They help bind all the ingredients together.  When eggs are beaten and then added to the other cake ingredients, they incorporate air into the batter.  The air bubbles that the beaten eggs create in the cake batter rise in the oven.  In writing, the backstory is the eggs.  You only need enough to flesh out the story and the characters.  As you get further into the story, you might see additional backstory information grow.  This is like the air bubbles rising in the oven.  You only need enough to raise the story to the heights you want.  You have to be careful that you don’t overdo it and it falls in on itself when the cake comes out of the oven.

Baking powder and baking soda are like conflict and resolution in the cake batter.  These ingredients help to enlarge the air bubbles when it rises in the oven.  The baking powder does most of the leavening but the baking soda is needed to neutralize the acids and add tenderness.  So too with a story, there must be conflict that makes the characters grow and stretch themselves.  Sometimes to the breaking point.  That’s the baking powders job – conflict.  Then there is resolution, at least partially.  That’s when the baking soda comes in and neutralizes the acid that’s been created.  The conflict and resolution continue to act throughout the baking of the batter just like they do in a story.

Butter is necessary in a cake to keep it fresh.  The temperature of the butter can actually make a huge difference when baking.  Room temperature butter allows the maximum amount of air to be whipped into the batter.  If your butter is cold, it isn’t absorbed as much by the starch and causes flakiness.  I consider butter to be the pacing of your story.  Is the pacing too slow?  If so, the reader may not get absorbed into the story and flake out by not reading the whole thing.  If your butter is room temperature, the pacing in your story is right and it draws the reader in and allows for the maximum amount of conflict and resolution in the story.  It helps keep the reader interested.  It keeps the story fresh.
The oil added to a cake keeps it moist.  In a story, the oil would be those hooks at the beginning of the chapters and the cliffhangers at the end of chapters.  They whet your appetite for more.  The cake is moist and the cliffhangers in the story help you slide from one chapter to the next without wanting to stop reading.
The last ingredients to discuss when making a cake are the flavors that are added to make the cake unique.  Is it a chocolate cake, a coconut cake, red velvet?  These ingredients that add flavor are the characters.  What about them makes you want to eat the cake?  They taste good, they are interesting, and they appeal to you.  So should the characters in a story.  They should appeal to you, be interesting, and be able to cause you to care about them.  There are a million flavors and there are a million ways you can create wonderful characters.

Now this part doesn’t have a lot to do with the baker.  It’s the environment that matters.  Does your oven heat evenly; is the temperature accurate for the type of cake you’re creating?  Did you use the right type of cake pan for the type of cake?
The oven is a metaphor for the “heat” you put your characters through.  How hot, how long?  That’s based on the type of story you’re creating.  In some respects the author needs to turn the story over to the characters and let the characters do the writing, just like the baker lets the cake batter respond to the oven.  The characters know what to do; you just have to let them do it.  Let the cake rise and let the story tell itself.  There will be time later for finishing touches.

This is sometimes the hardest part of baking a cake.  You have to let the cake cool before you assemble and add the frosting.  We think the cake smells so good coming out of the oven that we want to frost it and eat it right away.  But the frosting runs and the cake doesn’t look or taste as good as we expect.  Once it’s cooled, the baker can add the finishing touches that create a beautiful cake.  This is true for the author as well.  Once the story is written, it’s usually best to let it rest for awhile.  We’re too close to the story.  We just know it’s fantastic, it’s perfect!  But if we wait and let it rest and gain some distance from it, we can come back to it once it’s cooled and assemble it properly and add the right finishing touches to truly make it a masterpiece.


cherie said...

Nicely done, Kellie! I've added your meme to my list.

That Spiderman cake is AWESOME! I'm not a baker (and I've never tried baking a cake) so I totally am in awe with those who can bake. I watched those Ultimate Cake Bake-offs or something on TV and it is so cool what people can do.

Anyway, it's an appropriate metaphor. I hope that my non-existent baking skills will still allow me to write a good story. LOL!! =)

KellieM said...

Thanks Cherie! It was fun to research and write this meme. I also wanted to thank you for your fantastic blog. By you adding my blog site to your site I am getting an amazing amount of traffic. So thank you! Now I need to deliver so they'll come back for more!