|Image compliments of MorgueFile|
I was making a sandwich for my kids the other day (an occurrence that doesn’t happen often) when it hit me…writing is like sandwich building. I’m not sure how I missed it before.
You see, first you take out the bread. That’s the framework of your story. It’s the bones you’ll be building on. This is the place where you decide what type of story you’re about to write—romantic comedy, thriller, historical; novella or novel—who your characters are and where this story is taking place. Honestly, this is where I can find ways to procrastinate the most. I love visualizing my characters and naming them. I can get lost thinking of the perfect setting or finding pictures of look-alikes online and pinning them. But while Pinterest boards are really cute, they’ll never be enough to satiate a reader. You have to add meat.
Meat. The thick part that sustains your audience. What’s the plot? In that romantic comedy, what’s going to keep the two leads apart? In the thriller, who’s your big bad and why? In the historical, are we dealing with a great moment of the past or are you creating a new one in an amazing old city? The meat is where you dig in and brainstorm your story. You discover the theme and overarching story question. You know what motivates your characters, what conflicts will arise, and how they will be resolved. Then you put it down on paper. This is where the rough draft happens. The story begins to take shape, and you get the important stuff down, but it’s not very exciting. No one wants just a meat sandwich.
It’s time for the flavor. Like swiping on mayo or spicy mustard, perhaps adding pickles or jalapeños, this is where your story really starts to shine. You add those little traits that make your character unique. Something they always say or a habit they can’t break. You flesh out the setting, adding color and depth to each location. Deepen the five senses, making sure you hit at least three per scene. You add beats and pull tags. Drop the overused sayings and replace them with fresh words. Sometimes these last layers take the longest, but they’re where the sandwich goes from ho-hum to delicious.
So where are you at today? Are you pulling out some bread, in the meat stage, or adding the flavor? Better yet, what’s your favorite part? I’m finishing up the meat of a story and ready to head into my favorite part—the flavor. Anyone else?
Hoping your sandwich building is producing something tasty today!