Sunday, December 16, 2007

Writing Lessons From Christmas Cookies

In our house we have a tradition this time of year. My wife spends hours baking frosted sugar cookies and I spend hours trying to avoid helping her so that I can eat them later with the appropriate feeling of consequence-free pleasure. After getting caught in the kitchen on other Sunday afternoon business I was coerced into sifting together some flour, baking powder, and salt. Then I figured out that the deck needed sweeping. While I'm busy doing this marginally important task, Daughter Number One comes out and asks, "Are you trying to avoid helping Mom with the cookies?" I of course try misdirection and state, "No, I just have other things to do right now." She sees clearly through this with The Sight that only a six year old has. "OK, so you're trying to avoid helping Mom with the cookies." Then she turns back into he kitchen.

If you are getting lazy and uninspired in your writing, your characters will be obviously not doing what they should be doing. Readers will note this. Remember that fiction is not like real life and your characters have to stay on task. They can eat someone else's cookies, but they have to make it a little more dramatic than coming in from the deck with a defensive 'What?' look on their face.

4 comments:

KEANAN BRAND said...

(laughing) This reminds me of my dad when I was a kid. Mom would ask him to do something he didn't want to do, and he seemed to magically find pressing chores in the garage, the yard, the shop, the neighbor's roof...

And I agree with your assessment about characters. I know my story's off course if things starting getting too easy/too lazy with the characters. (Unless, of course, the easy part is just a lull before the trap is sprung, the storm arrives, the bad guy wins, etcetera.)

Valerie Comer said...

LOL -- you could send the Christmas cookie elf to my house. We're renovating the kitchen (slowly and painfully) and I'm just hoping to be mostly functional by Christmas. I told my (adult) kids that this year's goal is to remember that Christmas isn't about cookies. My 26yo daughter paused and said *okaaaaaaaaaaaay* in a dubious sort of voice.

Oy.

Seren said...

'Cookies' don't feature very large in British Christmases - unless of course, you mean biscuits and then the preference is for chocolate ones. I'm never sure how 'cookies' and 'biscuits' equate.

What we love to stuff our faces with on this side of the pond are mince pies, Christmas cake and puddings, though we are becoming more cosmopolitan and trying panetone and stollen. The aforementioned delicacies used to be made at home. Not any more. Supermarkets have made it too easy.

Ergo, 'baking cookies' no longer serves as an adequate excuse for neglecting your writing. The supermarket down the road will have a perfectly edible alternative. I'm only surprised you didn't delegate 'sweeping the deck' to sons 1 & 2 and sneak off to write me another 200 words for that Roman epic of yours.

Scriptorius Rex said...

KB- Procrastinating is a valuable tool that provides you with all kinds of potential reasons for not doing something else that should be done.

VC- Kitchen renovations during mid December? I think I'd rather spend several minutes whacking myself in the forehead with a rusty hammer.

Seren- Darlin', you Brits need to get your English straight. Biscuits are fluffy baked goods that taste great with either butter and gravy or butter and jam. Just can't get that kind of versatility from an English muffin. (Which isn't a muffin!)