Baking a Story
Don’t worry – I know the difference between cooking and writing! But I’ve been thinking that there are some similarities between baking a cake and writing a story:
- assemble ingredients – create a character/put him or her in a situation of conflict/add one or two more characters – a lover, a friend, an enemy – it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s someone for the main character to interact with/decide on a premise – what will the story illustrate about human behaviour?
- Place the ingredients in a bowl – provide a setting in which your characters can walk and talk, laugh and cry.
- Mix ingredients well – make sure the situation you come up with is significantly challenging for the character. Characters can grow and change through conflict.
- Put the mixture in a baking tin and bake in the oven – translate your ideas into words and write!
- Test the cake to see if it’s firm – read, reread and reread your draft.
- If the cake isn’t ready, return it to the oven for another few minutes – don’t expect to get your story right straight off.
Okay, I’m getting bored with the analogy now! But I’ve deliberately used ‘baking’ as it strikes me I’m going through a similar process with a story at the moment.
Think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been commissioned to write a short story! I always feel a bit of a poseur saying that, but can’t help a little glow of excitement as well – or is that fear?
West Midlands Readers Network, co-ordinator Roz Goddard, is running a scheme where writers are paired with a book group. The writer meets the group, talks about their writing, and the group come up with suggestions for a short story. You can read what Roz says about it here.
My group is Great Barr and I’ve recently been with Roz to meet them. They were lovely – lively and interesting with lots of ideas. I talked about my novels and short stories and about the themes that interest me, and they came up with ideas for a story they would like to read. So my ingredients are:
- something involving relationships and their complexity
- a strong female main character
- a focal event around which story happens
- possibly involving a college situation
- possibly including a river/a boat/ floods (they might have been influenced by the torrential rain on the day of my visit and the flood outside the library!)
- a character with a public/private persona
- somewhere along the way, a station, a bus stop and a policewoman were also mentioned!
So, I’ve got the ingredients. All I need to do is to return to my analogy and bake my story. Easy?!