I was cooking the other day and realized that writing is in some ways similar to cooking. The item I was cooking was a corn casserole. The recipe was out of a book my wife and I received when we got married 18 years ago this summer, but as I read it I was reminded of the Half Blood Prince’s potions book from the Harry Potter series.
The recipe is for a relatively basic corn casserole. It basically says that you combine a can of corn, a can of creamed corn, an egg, 3/4 cup of milk, a cup of shredded cheese, and a package of mexican cornbread mix in a pan with a melted stick of butter and bake at 400 for 35 minutes. (free recipe – you didn’t realize this was a cooking blog today, did you?)
In the margins of the cookbook were our modifications. First, combine the egg, milk, and creamed corn in that order followed by a can of diced green chili peppers. Next, add a healthy amount of garlic and onion powder. Mix in the cornbread mix and then add the rest of ingredients. Bake covered at 400 for 20 minutes and then uncovered at 400 for another 20 minutes.
If you follow our Half-Blood Prince style directions, you get a more flavorful corn casserole that disappears at potlucks and family gatherings far faster than it ever did before we added these touches.
Why do I compare this to writing? Because there is nothing new under the sun. There are only a few basic stories out there (someone succeeds, someone fails, someone live, someone dies). The few basic stories are the corn casserole, and it is the task of a writer to figure out the ingredients to add which will change your corn casserole from a relatively bland and common affair into a delicious treat for all who taste it. What interesting new ingredients will you attempt to add? How will you change the timing of things to surprise folks? Some times, writers try to accomplish this and they fail (I am reminded as I say this of attempts in my youth to create such culinary oddities as a chocolate chip black olive pizza or a peanut butter and turkey sandwich while experimenting with food). Other times you try something and the flavors explode in your mouth (in a good way).
I hope that as I finish up The Vergrinn War, it grabs you like the spicy corn casserole, or like the Turkey in a Crockpot that I have been told is the juiciest turkey ever, or possibly like my wife’s blue ribbon chocolate chip cookies (yes, they actually won a blue ribbon at the county fair the only time she entered them – the largest county fair in the state of Arkansas from what I have been told). As I re-read what I am posting for Throwback Thursdays, I occasionally feel like I am taking a bite of peanut butter and turkey that I prepared as a youth. Oh well, everybody had to start somewhere.