Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Apple Fritter

Yes, I'm going to write about apple fritters today! YUM! Okay, not totally, but apple fritters play a part in this blog post today. No, I haven't been drinking.

As is my routine once or twice a week, I stop by Starbucks on the way to work, the one with the drive-thru window. Convenience. So, they know me pretty well by now since I've been stopping by for a few years. I'm on a first name basis with a few of the baristas. Yes, that's probably a bit sad. In fact, they know my voice so well that they pretty much could prepare my order without asking me what I wanted. Pretty much. Yes, there's a catch.

Lately, I've been switching up my order. My normal coffee is a Grande Cafe Mocha. Now, in the fall I love Grande Pumpkin Spice, and there's nothing better around Christmas than a Grande Peppermint Mocha. Well, lately, I've been changing things up and ordering one of the following three drinks: Grande Cafe Mocha, Grande Dark Cherry Mocha, or Grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte! There is no consistency as to when or how often I order one of these drinks. I like to change things up.

This morning, it was a Grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte and an apple fritter. The dude (well, manager, he's been there a while at the window) was like What, no Dark Cherry Mocha this morning? I laughed and was like Nope, like to keep you guys on your toes. His response You're messing me up, man! Then, he hands me my apple fritter and says Well, this order never changes. My response Nope, gotta have me some apple fritter.

Now, the point of this post is, that as writers we need to change things up. Yes, we can write the same story over and over and over again, change the name of the characters, the location, but in the end it's the same story over and over and over again. It gets boring after a while and a bit predictable. Who wants predictable? Okay, the baristas at Starbucks with my order, but that's a whole other story!

I don't want to write the same thing every single time. I want something new and exciting. Something . . . different, like a Dark Cherry Mocha or a Cinnamon Dolce Latte or . . . something. I don't want the same story over and over and over again.

But . . . oh, c'mon, you knew there was a but in here somewhere. No comments, Robyn!!! But, we also need an apple fritter in our writing. We need a consistency, something that doesn't change, that always stays the same, in our writing. In my Starbucks runs, the apple fritter doesn't change. I don't order any other food item. If they're out of apple fritters, I just get coffee. I'm consistent in my love of apple fritters and absolutely nothing else will do.

In my writing, I change things up by how I format each different project, how many perspectives I use, the situations, the characters, the backgrounds, and what not . . . but, I maintain a consistency of good storytelling, of delving deeply into the psyche of my characters, and, more recently by showing the different sides to a single event. I want my readers to know they can expect something consistent from me, twenty years down the road, when they're still reading my New York Times Best Selling Novel. Hey, a guy can dream! I want them also to know it's not going to be the same character over and over and over again just with a different name, a bigger waist, less hair, and perhaps a woman instead of a man.

You see, there's an author I read who did an absolutely fantastic series. About 15 years later he wrote another book. The characters were absolutely identical to the ones in the fantastic series, down to their personality quirks, and the only thing different was their names and the color of the hair.

So, change things up with your writing projects. Don't get too comfortable - not that it's a bad thing - in what you write so that the only change in each project is the name of the character rather than the character!

Have a great day. I'm off to finish my apple fritter!!



Stina Lindenblatt said...

*rushes off to see if she made this mistake*

Anonymous said...

Mmmm... apple fritter. You make a very good point, and you are making me hungry! Gotta find me some breakfast.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm... Apple fritter. You make a great point, consistency is great when it comes to good writing but not when it turns into the same old story with a new hat. You made me hungry, darn you. Off to breakfast!

Bossy Betty said...

I really wanted to focus on the message here, but my mind kept drifting to the fritter.... Just kidding! You make some great points. We all get comfortable in our writing and usually it's to the detriment of our craft!

Lady Glamis said...

Great post, Scott! I think that apple fritter might just be our voice - which should usually remain consistent, I think. Although it can change over time, but we won't go there. :)

Now I want a pastry!

Davin Malasarn said...

Scott, have you been drinking?

Davin Malasarn said...

Seriously, I was just thinking about this same stuff last night. I do think the majority of reader seek out that middle ground of new and familiar. It's sort of interesting because I think most writers want to be in that place, but since it's not black and white, we sort of seek it out blindly. I've toyed with the idea of writing the same story over and over again, but from a different angle each time. That's something that still interests me.

Scott said...

Stina - surely not! Ha!

myliteraryquest - thanks. I highly recommend the apple fritters for breakfast.

Bossy Betty - sorry to corrupt you with thoughts of warm, delicious apple fritters that melt in your mouth. I think comfort and confidence are two of the pitfalls of writing. If we get too much of either, I think we lose objectivity with our work.

Lady Glamis - good point about the voice . . . and the fact that it can change. I think it all depends on the tone of what we're working on . . .

Davin - nope, no drinking, but we did grill hotdogs for lunch at work today and sit out at the patio tables. I like your idea of writing the same story over and over, but from a different angle. I did a short story - one event - all from different perspectives. It was very interesting, and hard at the same time, to write. Still, we need something consistent that defines ourselves as writers. : )


Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great post - gotta love a little apple fritter. You make some important points. But the fact that you did it through Starbucks and apple fritters merits some kind of award! :-)

Tamika: said...

Love this post! I can be a creature of comfort, which is a dangerous thing.

Not long ago I drove up to Starbucks prepared to order my customary caramel latte, but I asked about the a different drink recommended by a friend. The employee nudged me to give it a try, but I hesitated finally deciding that I would give it a try next time. Now I see how this may translate in my writing. Good points.

Elana Johnson said...

Scott, I'm so with you on this. I want people to read a novel of mine and then another and say, "Yup, that was an Elana Johnson novel." Even though they're different with different plots and characters.

Claire Dawn said...

Great post. Beautiful analogy.

I think what stays the same from project to project is basically the writer's voice- the way you deal with your characters and story lines. It's the reason you can love the same author even though his/her books tackle different topics, or even genre.

Keep your voice, change most of everything else.

Really wish I had an apple fritter.

VR Barkowski said...

Ok, trying to think of the apple fritter as STEADfast rather than BREAKfast. I think Lady G. is right on: the apple fritter is voice.

I'm writing a loose trilogy. Three MCs, their character arcs stretching out over three books, each book with a unique independent story arc. I do worry that post-trilogy all my characters will end up sounding like these three.

Tess said...

I love apple fritters. In fact, I went through a phase where I tried to home make them. It wasn't pretty.

you make good points here...some character traits, for instance, need to have real consistency to them. Nothing throws me off more than a shifting character trait.

have a great weekend, Scott!