Friday, September 25, 2020

Bake a Cake.

Bonjour, Friends!

I've been teaching creative writing for a long-long time and I've found that some of us are good with dialogue, but perhaps not so great at plot.  Some of us are brilliant with plot, but not so great when it comes to descriptive language and observations.  And then, there are some who can only do one thing at a time and we tend to separate out the dialogue from the description and the action from the internal monologue.

May I suggest, you think of your story-building as something like baking a cake and mix it up!

When you bake a cake, you begin with an action.  You look up your recipe and you gather up your ingredients.  

Oh, and may I suggest you invite friends to enjoy your cake!  This gives you an opportunity to add dialogue.  Give your characters a glass of champagne.  Get them talking.  Perhaps let one of them enter into your home with a bit of attitude.  Perhaps it's George.  Did he lose his job today?  The one he bragged and bragged about?  The one that gave him such a huge bonus he bought a silver Porsche?  Has he not told anyone of his fall from grace?  (See, now you have backstory too!)

The point is, let things get messy.  People should spill things.  Turn up the heat in the oven.  Get going on mixing ingredients.  Break a few eggs.


This gives you action. 

And then, there's the baking.  The quiet time.  The mid point crisis.  The anticipation, the yearning.  

By now, everyone is feeling a little edgy.  They're hungry.  They can smell the cake in the oven.  Chocolate.  But is it really a cake they smell or something else?  Perhaps the cake is a metaphor for that backstory.  Perhaps the cake is George's lost job?  Or perhaps it's something else?  Perhaps it's the deep love Anne feels for Tom who just recently declared that he too has feelings for her?  Ooh, it's getting very 19th century now?  It's a Jane Austen, pre-pandemic world!  

(By the way, you can reveal all this backstory using internal narrative, so that only your characters know the full truth.  And then, later you can set it free to great effect.)

Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself and I forgot all about the cake in the over!  Quick, let's get it out before it's burnt.  Drama! Tension! Action!

And now we also have all those sensory details:  

Sight, Smell, Sound, Touch and Taste.  

The climactic moment is that first taste and what happens next between your protagonist, and George, and Anne and Tom and anyone else you've welcomed into your imaginary world.

The point is, good writing is not just about the cake.  It's about the journey to the cake.

And so, your creative assignment for this week is to bake a cake.  And take a note of all the good elements of story telling:



Observation of specific details

Internal narrative 

Now, go have fun!  Bake your cake! 

Oh, and here's a recipe to get you started:


Chocolate Fondant (Lava Cake)

(yield 10 servings)


7 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped coarsely

1 stick of butter

4 eggs 

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



1.  Preheat oven to 400 F.

2.  Butter individual ramekins and dust inside with loose flour (throw out excess flour)

3.  Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a double boiler with butter over hot water.

4.  Beat the eggs with sugar and mix with flour and salt

5.  Slowly fold in the melted butter and chocolate.  Add vanilla extract

6.  Ladle into ramekins.  Place on a cookie sheet. 

7.  Bake at 400 F for approximately 12 minutes; the outer part should be coked and the inner part liquid


Leave the chocolate fondants in the ramekins and serve hot on individual plates with a light dusting of confectioners sugar.  It's also very elegant to place some raspberries alongside with a spoonful of raspberry sorbet.


(Recipe from my book "French Women Don't Sleep Alone," Kensington Press 2009)


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