Monday, November 10, 2008

A Spoonful of This and a Pinch of That

When I realized this week's topic was recipes, I paused for a second. Mostly because I wasn't sure if I wanted to talk about real recipes or writing recipes. BUT seeing how my debut book, A Taste of Magic, is about a woman who owns a bakery and then finds out she has magic--and that everything she bakes will now have a pinch of wishes-can-come true, well it just seemed that maybe that was what I should write about.

So I am.

Writing about writing recipes, that is.

Determining what "ingredients" need to be layered into a story (any story) can be difficult. Readers read a lot. That means they've seen just about everything, so for a book to really stand out, well--it needs to incorporate many different things in the right amounts, and told at the right pace. Of course, take any book and you'll find readers that love, love, love it and those that would declare it among the worst books ever written. So I guess, the first thing when planning the recipe for a book is to remember "You can't please everyone." Nor should any writer try.

Rather, they should try to find the right mash of ingredients to tell their characters' story in exactly the right way.

So, when I decided to write A Taste of Magic, I had a very vague idea. I wondered what it would be like for a woman who was still emotional/bitter from her divorce to the only man she'd ever loved (heck, ever dated, as their relationship began in high school) to have to bake his wedding cake to the woman he left her for. Ew, right? Well, "ew" was my thought anyway, but that's where the very beginning of this story clicked in my brain.

But when I began writing was sooo heavy, and Elizabeth (my heroine) was not a heavy type of character. She was funny, and smart, and while she was dealing with a lot of stuff, she wasn't massively depressed. It was more that she was trying to figure out what went wrong AND trying to find her place in a world where she'd never dated. And trust me, this woman? She sooo wanted to date.

She also wanted to laugh, have fun, and feel sexy.

So out of nowhere the whole "magic" element came at me, and in that second, I knew I had the missing ingredient that would help me tell Elizabeth's story in exactly the right way. So I pushed up my sleeves and dug in. Layering in the humor, magic, and fun along with the very real emotions, wants, and confusion Elizabeth experienced wasn't always easy. Just like if you dump too much salt into--oh, say oatmeal cookies, the cookies might look perfect when they're baked, but they're not going to taste quite right.

But when you get the combination of ingredients just right in a story, it truly is magic...and with the help of my editor, A Taste of Magic is now exactly the way it should be. That doesn't mean everyone will love it, but that's okay, too. Because there will be people who click with her story, with the "recipe" I put together, and will walk away feeling like they read a totally terrific story.

And isn't that what we're after as writers? Sharing our stories?

At any rate, before I get more off track--each writer knows their characters, their story, and working to find the proper "recipe" to show it off to the best of their ability isn't always easy. But when it's like feasting on the most decadent chocolate cake ever. Or, if you're not into chocolate--then whatever makes your tastebuds happy.

And now, as I write this, I've wrapped up the second book in the series, A Stroke of Magic, and am waiting to hear from my editor on what I layered right, what might need some work, and honestly? I can't wait to dig my hands in it again to make it the best it can be.


Jillian Cantor said...

Just the kind of recipe I love -- the kind that does not require me to go into the kitchen or turn on the oven! Great post -- I loved reading about how you decided to put the magic element into the book!!

Tracy Madison said...

LOL, you know--I used to love to cook actual recipes...but now, not so much. The magic came about unexpectedly, but I so love how it's added just the right thing to these stories!

Maureen Lipinski said...

I'm STILL amazed when I can pull off a complicated recipe--much like when I finish a manuscript!

Lesley Livingston said...

Lovely analogy, Tracy.

Can't wait to indulge in "Taste"!

Tracy Madison said...

Ooh, thanks Lesley! I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved writing it! Maureen--I feel much the same way, lol.