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Mar
8
2013

The Proof of the Pudding... Is in the Reading -- by Lindy Moone

We writers -- ha ha -- we're so messy. We play with words like toddlers with pudding -- pudding we assemble ourselves.

We have so many ingredients to choose from, and they're all so yummy; it's hard to know what to put in -- or leave out of -- the recipe. We want to be original. We need to be novel. Especially when we write genre stories, which can seem like “lite pudding” -- light on substance, on meaning, on meat. Sometimes our pudding gets bad press (all plot, no purpose). Sometimes that’s not fair; plenty of genre stories are loaded with meat. But sometimes it’s “just desserts.”

Like pudding, a story needs to set. Maybe yours isn’t setting because the prose is runny (run-on sentences?), or separated (no continuity!); or maybe it's too set in its ways -- stiff and starchy (ditch that omniscient point of view). It looks and smells like 50 shades of derivative. So you get to work; you start over; you trim those ingredients to what you think you need to get that story to set.

Now it's sweet... and the texture's better... but your (critique group) beta “tasters” say it's just not satisfying. They’re trying to be kind. They know unset pudding when they see it, but they also know it’s sticky stuff. It took forever to stir! You sweated over it! Just look at those darling, plump similes, those tasty, toasted metaphors suspended in...

Goo.

You aren’t the first writer to sprinkle your failures with coconut (sex scenes) and serve them up, anyway.

So you doubt yourself. Maybe Chocolate Fantasy's not your thing, and you should try a new genre: Strawberry Steampunk... Banana Dystopia... or tried-and-true Tapioca. What genre is Tapioca, anyway? (I'm guessing Romance, because of all the soft, squishy bits.) How do other writers get their stories to gel, to look so glossy, to have no lumps? To be satisfying? To hit the spot?

You need help. You go back to your beta tasters. You tell them you’ve revised the recipe, cut back on the tapioca and toasted the coconut. What more could they want? And they finally admit that it’s not what you put in; it’s what you left out.

They don’t care… about your characters.

You knew it. You knew it all along. You didn’t add the protein (characterization) to all those simple carbs. You were writing “genre” and you thought you’d get away with it -- but your critique group (Critique Circle!) called you on it. Thank goodness.

Characterization is hard; there’s always the risk of melodrama. But without compelling characters, stories lack substance. So stir in that back-story. Blend in that motivation, that internal conflict, and let your story set. How you did it, no one needs to know.

They just need to care.

 

Lindy Moone is the author of the In(s)ane Mystery, "Hyperlink from Hell: A Couch Potato's Guide to the Afterlife." Contact her through her equally in(s)ane author's website, "Literary Subversions," or "Belly-up!" to her blog. On Critique Circle, she's "Lindymoon."

Posted by Lindy Moone 8 Mar 2013 at 06:23
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Responses to this blog

Demonqueen 8 Mar 2013 at 10:59  
What an excellent article! Had me in stitches. And so true... Yeah, toast the coconut, love that.
Lindymoon 8 Mar 2013 at 14:12  
Thanks, Demonqueen.

Glad you liked it. I tried to come across as confident (if a bit corny), but worried it looked too... Professor Prat. We're all pudding-in-progress here!
Lindymoon 9 Mar 2013 at 00:04  
A little blog backstory:
One minute I was chasing down a recipe for "Chicken Breast Pudding" — something sweet, filling and nutritious to feed a loved one who'd just lost some teeth ? then, wham! This sloppy metaphor blind-sided me, and I was off to blog while my loved one sucked soup through a straw. Yes, there really is something as (seemingly) disgusting as pudding with meat. Yum.

And then there's this BBC article on the glorious pedigree of the pun.

I will shut up, now.
Waterloon 9 Mar 2013 at 04:47  
Lindy, that was great. And I love your backstory here. That's the cherry on top!

The BBC article was great too.


The late William Safire, the New York Times's long-time language writer, wrote in 2005 that a pun "is to wordplay what dominatrix sex is to foreplay - a stinging whip that elicits groans of guilty pleasure".
Priceless.

Thanks for sharing it all.
__________________
You have freedom when you're easy in your harness. ~Robert Frost

Lindymoon 9 Mar 2013 at 05:23  
@Waterloon
Love that quote, and the Robert Frost one in your sig. They seem to have something in common... I like to think Frost was talking about being comfy in your parachute or (naughty thought redacted), not the freedom and confidence that comes from knowing certain writing basics.

Maybe he meant using a harness as one swings through the birches.
Breeze 10 Mar 2013 at 04:33  
Messy writing - how apt. And how refreshing to see a new take!
Swanston 27 Jun 2013 at 04:18  
Brilliant! I giggled like a five year old throughout.

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