There are many different words we can describe food, right? The presentation, colors, texture, and perhaps most importantly: the flavor. A good balance makes a good dish, while too much of any one element can make the whole thing flop.
I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows lately, (are you surprised? 😉 and making notice of how writing and food can be quite similar. Especially these competitive cooking shows, they are always talking about balancing different textures/flavors to make the dish really pop.
Well, these same sort of critiques and techniques can be applied to your writing as well. ‘Sweet’ scenes, ‘bitter’ scenes, even ‘tangy’ scenes. (those really interesting ones that kind of give you an interesting mix of emotions, you know?) Then there’s how you ‘color’ and lay it all out, balancing everything so it all compliments everything and comes together as one cohesive and delicious dish.
And sure, it’s easy to say ‘just balance everything out’, and while that sounds like good advice–whether for food or writing–it’s a little too vague to be helpful. So let’s take it a little deeper, shall we?
Let’s pretend–since we’ve got this lovely picture above–that this waffle is your story. To start, with your first draft, you might only have a base mixture of ‘good writing’–read: a good grasp on English and storytelling style–but you really want to make sure that is good first before you try to start adding all the fun and pretty stuff on top.
So, you’ve got a plain but pretty good base. Well…what do you put on it, now? You don’t want your writing too flowery or filled with purple prose, but you also don’t want it ‘bland’ either. This is kind of a matter of your ‘style’ and may take some time to develop. My best bit of advice there would be just be open to new things and don’t try to make your writing too *anything*. Find your style and let that help direct your writing, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it either if you must. Vary the lengths of your sentences, your beginnings of them and of new paragraphs, make your style reflect the genre of your book.
The second main part of your story, beside its plot, is its characters. I’ve discussed what makes a great character a good bit, from writing distinctive voices to character development, personalities, the best character advice ever, and even the heart of a character! So, I won’t rehash too much of that, but again, make sure to balance them out. Give them great attributes and fatal flaws, dreams and fears, good sides and bad. Make them become 3D because of the contrast of their personality.
Next, of course, comes ‘flavoring’ your scenes–your plot base. Maybe there’s already some that seem ‘sweet’ or ‘bitter’ or whatever, but don’t just leave it at that! Really enhance the ‘flavor’ of each particular scene, and balance them out with scenes of opposite styles. Have an incredibly sad scene? Balance it out with a happy one! Writing a really sweet scene? Write another that has the characters getting upset at each other. Balance is the key!
Okay, so, you’ve got a good plot structure and added in your own personal ‘style’ and ‘flavored’ your scenes, but it’s still lacking color. Description is the ‘color’ that will make your writing pop, so be sure to put some vibrant patches in their and balance them out with duller colors as well. Sure, write some long and extravagant descriptions if need be, but balance them out. Again, just don’t overwhelm your writing with it. Gotta let at least part of that nice plot writing shine through too, right? 🙂
And finally, a garnish to make it all look pretty: the formatting. Text size, font, chapter headings and/or names if there are any, and, of course, the cover. You’d be surprised how much better a book is when it’s aesthetically pleasing to look at. And that is also what gets your readers hooked to start, so it’s very important. You can have one of the best stories in the world, but if it doesn’t look nice, people won’t care. We say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ all the time, but, in the writing world, we truly do judge a book by its cover. So make sure your cover/interior is as pretty to look at as it’s enjoyable to read. 🙂
One last thing to remember: Blend all these elements together so they form a cohesive whole. That’s part of why your style is so important, to pull it all together. Flowery prose with a gritty scene just…doesn’t work well. Make the writing complement the scenes, the characters, the plot–bring it all together in one beautiful masterpiece.
And that, my dear friends, leaves us with only one final step: Enjoy. Pat yourself on the back for writing and finishing a book–now you know it’s really not as easy as it might seem, but you still did it! And if you can enjoy your story, there will always been someone else who will love it just as much, too. 🙂