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 . . .