Archives: rules

Recipes and Novels or Novel Recipes

A good recipe has the same characteristics as a good novel. And cooks like novelists are pantsers or plotters. Social isolation is the test of both. I am a self-acknowledged pantser. I was raised in a southern, struggling to make ends meet, kitchen. That’s code for making do with what you have. Boom or bust my pantry staples include grits, cornmeal, peas, and beans. Every kind of peas – crowder, field and black-eyed. Every kind of dried bean – navy, red, black, and pinto. In their native form, none sound appetizing but like a writing inspiration, it is the possibility of each. My travels sometimes on limited funds lead to other pantry staples, soy, pesto, capers, yuppie tuna, and ramen. My career opened doors to savories I had not known existed. Today’s pantry is a mélange of days good and bad and the sum being greater the parts.

I read recipes like I read novels. I want a sense of place, culture, character, and accessibility. Nothing like a plot twist, the expected ratcheted up a notch by the unexpected.

When I deviate from my nature I shop with a list of ingredients for recipes I imagine I will cook someday like novels I think I will write. This has led to a pantry, freezer and corner cabinet filled with the esoteric. Before the advent of COVID19, many items were threatened or doomed by an advancing shelf-safe date. Lists are a luxury unaffordable in a pandemic. My kitchen has become a lab of reverse engineering.

A week ago I bought a ham at the local butcher. Yesterday two cans of butter beans became visible with a roulette spin of the lazy Susan. Voila. The plot soup. The characters – the antagonist ham dying to be used while still viable, beans the protagonist, use me before I’m thrown on the heap. Subplots include spices and savories. Accessibility the trigger of all five senses heightened by anticipation, memory, and comfort. Reward gratification of accomplishment and leftovers on shelf or in freezer for re-reads.

My sense of possibility housed in my sense memory is not unlike the rules of grammar. Both are meant to be revered and broken on the altar of creativity.

What’s in the pot?

Diced Ham

Onion

Garlic

Red Pepper Flakes

Bay Leaf

Pinch of Ground Cloves

Canned Butter Beans               

Chicken Broth

Play with the flavors and the proportions, taste, edit, revise and serve.

Make Your Own Rules

If you write and you want to learn more about your craft you’ve probably read dozens of articles that include the following:

The 3 rules of…

7 rules to…

If you want to be published follow the 10 rules…

Preface the word rule with a number between one and ten and you are well on your way to a silver bullet article or blog.  Why silver bullet? Like a diet that starts on New Year’s Day, our magical thinking likes to believe the last set of rules read will rock our writing world. We don’t like to accept that a successful diet requires less food and more exercise and successful writing requires, wait for it, writing. You become a better writer by writing. Bummer, huh?

As a writing instructor, I’ve seen eager faces wait for the silver-platter epiphany. I’ve also experienced the group reaction of eight students who become simultaneously crestfallen at the reality of writing as a practice.

If you need rules as a writer, make your own. Define your writing ritual. My writing ritual is of little value to you. I can’t tell you which space resonates with you. I can’t say whether you should sit or stand, use a keyboard, a number 2 pencil, or a quill, play music as you write or meditate before you begin. Writing is personal. Success is defined by you and the goals you set. Success is reached by the recipe you create to attain your goals. Stay true and practice, practice, practice until you become the writer you want to be.

 

Happy Writing.

© 2020 Lee Heffner – Author