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?!

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  1. Simples! as they say 🙂

    And in the meantime you’ve just got one or two other things to occupy your time, like selecting entries for anthologies, to name but one!

    Nice analogy BTW 🙂

  2. Lindsay says:

    Yes, really easy! I’m waiting for the oven to warm up! Glad you like the analogy.

  3. It sounds quite a gas!
    One reading group I visited because they had read my Liar Dice were actually writing their own…. a chapter each and it was going wild like a rampant garden!

  4. Lindsay says:

    I’ve done that with groups I’ve been teaching, Becky. It’s good fun, but not sure about finished product!
    I’ve almost finished the first draft of the story for my reading group – at the moment it seems a bit women’s magazineish. Perhaps because I wrote it lounging by a pool in the Algarve and the hot sunshine didn’t create the right ambience for the torrential rain I’m trying to describe. I didn’t realise there are so many rain cliches!

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