Not only do you get my favorite cookie recipe today, but you are also getting an analogy. Wow, this must be some Thursday! :D
So get ready for me to cook up some parallels, but first the recipe:
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
½ cup shortening
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
- Preheat oven to 350
- Place butter and shortening in mixing bowl and beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugars, beating until blended. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.
- Combine flour, soda, and salt in medium bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in chocolate morsels.
- Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.
Now for the analogy ~Every ingredient listed above is essential for the recipe to turn out right. If you are a writer you know the same holds true for how you write your novel. If you are reader you know when something has “been left out” or if there is something missing in a book, right?
I’m going to give you my thoughts on what each ingredient listed above represents when you are writing a novel.
The butter or margarine, softened = Appropriate POV. This can be such a sticking point, can’t it? First person? Third person omniscient? I so admire how Barbara Kingsolver pulled off shifting first person in The Poisonwood Bible. Like the butter for the dough, the POV will help determine how smooth the novel will be.
The shortening = Setting. Does the reader know where the story is taking place? Can they get a feel for the environment? It’s one of the kicker ingredients that isn’t always done right or is sometimes overdone, but when it’s done right it can make the whole novel better.
The firmly packed light brown sugar = Climax. A “firmly packed” scene that makes the reader audibly say, “Ah ha!” or “Ohhhh” in that soft knowing way.
The granulated sugar = Characters to care about. It’s all in the sugar! At least for me it is. I love character-driven novels, so it’s no wonder I chose sugar for the characters. They really make or break a book for me, sweeten me to keep reading or bland it out so much I simply put it down.
The large egg = Believable dialogue. You don’t just need a good egg and a bad egg (aka a protagonist and an antagonist) you also need dialogue that works. Conversations need to be included for a reason, to push the tension and plot forward, to ratchet up the reader’s excitement and urgency to know the characters. If the writer isn’t incorporating believable dialogue into the novel (the way people genuinely speak) it’s as if they left huge hunks of grainy shell in the recipe and it will be noticeable.The vanilla extract = The hook. Don’t you just love the smell of vanilla extract? My mom used to lift that little brown bottle up to my nose when I was a child, eager to eat the cookie batter and I’d revel in the aroma. It makes you want more. Smelling the vanilla extract geared me up for licking the mixers and eventually tasting a cookie.
The all-purpose flour = Plot, original story. Everyone knows you can’t have a cookie without the flour. Same goes for a plot and even more important is that the story idea is creative and original or hasn't been done four hundred and seventy three times before?
The baking soda = Conflict. After all it's what makes the cookie rise.
The salt = Tension. Constant tension. Salt adds that little spice to the recipe. Could you omit it? Sure, but why when it keeps the reader reading and the cookie tasting perfect?
The semisweet chocolate morsels = Voice. Another favorite of mine. I love being able to recognize the voice of a certain author based on his/her ability to flavor the story with a certain taste. Most people would agree that the chocolate chips are the best part of a cookie. Voice is one of the reasons I love to write, finding my voice, testing it, risking things with it, and experimenting with it. It’s also why I am sure to pick up novel # 4 from an author who has a strong and irresistible voice.
Finally, you can throw in some symbolic nuts just for fun!
Okay, obviously this is a very skeletal, bare-boned example of the novel cookie, but I hope you were able to find it delectable. Let me know if you’d add in any ingredients or make substitutions. What goes into your cookie book?
*cookie recipe from Southern Living at Home
**photo by flickr