Fine Dining

Fine Dining

The aroma hooks you first.

You hear the sizzle as you approach the kitchen.

You look through the door . . . Gleaming pans, flashing knives, the quick flash of a spatula flipping that simmering delicious . . .

Of course you know I’m writing about writing. Yeah, that cover, the color scheme made you step nearer, look more closely. You could tell from the picture it was going to be a delicious space opera. You check the title, the author, hear the sizzle and you just have to look! That’s where the blurb kicks in. Whatever’s cooking needs to promise a really good meal, and the blurb is that promise.

Then you get the reader to sit down for the feast.

The appetizer, the start of the story. The hook needs to be dangled. You introduce the characters, and throw in a hint toward the story problem. The reader reads on.

The salad, or are you a soup sort of person? It’s metaphorical, so you can have both. But they must be tasty. And not too much, you want to set up for the main course, not sate the appetite. If it’s an action sort of book, a smallish fight or a minor explosion will do nicely. A Romance? The first glimpse? Or the first kiss?

Perhaps a delicate little ice to clear the palate? Clean your weapons, by all means brag about how easy it was. Your readers _need_ a little gleeful anticipation. A slap for that stolen kiss? Or perhaps a lovers’ quarrel?

The entre. The meat and vegetables of the story. The writer dives into the problem. Savor the flavor of that steak! Woo! A little hot! Back off and toy with the potatoes, try the peas. But the steak was _so_ good, what are a few singed taste buds, right? Ouch. Right. Cut it up a bit, think this over while checking the potatoes again. Grid your loins and go for the meat. This time, you win!

Desert? Coffee? After dinner drink? No rush, take you time. Savor the rewards of heroic battle, show the rewards of character growth. Or loosen your belt. Sit back with a sigh of repletion.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, for the reader.

Few readers see what’s going on in the kitchen. The entrée done before the salad is chopped, the soup is getting cold, the cake is all frosted and decorated but it doesn’t seem like a suitable finish for the new sauce you suddenly found yourself throwing together . . .

I mean, you have the steak dinner all planned out, but by the time the first plate hits the table it’s likely to be Cajun Blackened Catfish. On the bad days, you wonder why you didn’t just call for pizza delivery.

I blame it on the peculiar pseudo-split personality of the writer. The imaginary characters just click into place and get to work—and they don’t care about the writer’s plans. They all think they are Master Chefs. They know exactly how dinner is going to go. And it ain’t pretty.

They tsk over the soup and pour it back into the pan. Reach for the spice rack . . . Salad? Salad is for vegetarians . . . fine, fine, if you’re going to whine, toss it with some dressing, and put it on the table. Chances are it’ll get cut in the editing.

And what the heck are you doing to that beautiful chunk of meat? Forget your usual dry rub, and hand me that bottle of burgundy . . .


  1. I’m a pantser. I start out hoping there’s something I like on the menu, but once started, I have no control over what comes out of the kitchen. So far I’m batting .500, to mix a metaphor.

    1. Yeah, sometimes you just open the cupboard or fridge and find something you don’t remember buying, but there it is, and it would probably work well with, hmm, what sort of seasonings?

      I’m mostly a pantser, but _usually_ I have some idea of what the ending is _supposed_ to look like. Other times, there’s jut no place for that cake, so you turn it into a short story.

      1. I have an idea of where the story is going and what the end should look like. And I’m batting a thousand on getting that wrong.

  2. I’d planned, and shopped for, a hearty Jaegerschnitzel with the usual sides. But what’s appearing on the prep table features a very spicy goulash. What have my characters done?!? (Re-marrying? That’s not supposed to happen? Polish nationalist brother-in-law? I thought Cousin Imre was supposed to be the problem, along with T.G.) Give me those carrots and that grater back right now . . !

    Glad I didn’t post the day’s menu outside for readers yet.

  3. No no no no no!!!

    It’s no longer a “MEN-u”. That’s sexist. It’s now a “Bill of Fare”.

    No – wait! That won’t do either! Bill is a man’s name! How about . . . “Food List”?

    There. That’s better!


    1. You are a very bad man.
      Probably due to all those evil princesses you associate yourself with.

  4. “Few readers see what’s going on in the kitchen.”

    And that’s why readers PAY writers, so they don’t have to. If all readers had to contribute a finished book to the community supply before they had access to stories as adults, nobody would be able to survive as a writer. NOBODY.

    We’re the restaurant owners: we want the readers to have the best possible experience, but we KNOW what’s going on with the prima donna’s behind the scenes, and the supplier whose truck broke down so we hav eno fresh eggplant.

    1. And it’s also why we tend to close the kitchen door. A few readers like seeing the dinner in progress, but I fear a lot of them would lose the respect and awe they have for us god-like Creators.

      1. And I really don’t want to watch the details of my food being prepared – that’s what I go out to dinner for.

        ‘God-like’ – well yes, if in a small universe. And we do have to think what will happen if our creations don’t please the paying customers, so our freedom is not absolute – if we want paying customers.

  5. And SOMETIMES, you can order take-out, and then completely rework it and make it something entirely your own. That’s what Dave Freer does in “The Road to Dundee,” which I have just reviewed on Amazon. Now, first, you need to read the poem “The Road to Dundee,” sometimes listed as “The Road and the Miles To Dundee.” It’s a short, sweet little song, with a depth that I frankly never would have seen in a million years if Dave hadn’t pointed it out. So: the poem/song is the take-out; but then David adds other courses, sauces, and serves it up in good solid dishes of fired clay, with hand-carved spoons. And it turns the thin soup into rich, hearty stew, with LOTS of places for your heart to savor.
    It’s just frappen brilliant writing, that’s all.

  6. And SOMETIMES, a giant chicken walks into a New Age bookstore, and asks to speak to the head God.
    And that’s how Sarah’s story “All Who Thirst” starts. It’s a hoot and a holler, and I loved it. I reviewed it on Amazon, and I MAY blog about it.

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