Monday, June 11, 2012

Do you have gourmet writing?

Lately, when I badly need to procrastinate, I've been watching the Food Network. They have some great shows but my favorite is Chopped. There's something magical about the idea of food, a time limit and judges. Every time the clock starts on the last few minutes I'm thrust into this nervous, nail-biting ball of suspense. Will they finish on time? Include all of the ingredients? Get everything on the plate? Most of them make it but then comes the really hard part - the critique. The judges pick up their forks with a sort of cool nonchalance and proceed to tear apart the plate, literally and figuratively. All I can say is it's pretty intense.

On Chopped, each of the chefs is critiqued on three things: Presentation, Taste and Creativity. When all of those three ingredients come together the chef has created a gourmet masterpiece that will please even the toughest of food critics. The more I thought about it the more I realized that you could say the same thing about writing.

Presentation: This is the nuts and bolts of writing. Is the plot fully fleshed out? Do the characters grow and develop throughout the story? Is the language descriptive, active and engaging? Do you avoid telling, info dumps and other writing pitfalls? Does the writing flow well and seamlessly, hooking the reader and pulling them into the story? In writing, like in cooking, when all of the ingredients come together in a purposeful and masterful way the result is a beautiful masterpiece that just begs to be devoured.
Taste: This might be the most intangible aspect of writing, but has to do with drawing the reader in and helping them be invested in the characters. Have you ever read a book where the writing was brilliant but you just didn't care about the story? Or read a book where the writing was amateurish but you just couldn't put it down until you had read every last page? The best presentation in the world won't hook someone if the product tastes bad. Here is where you want to give interesting characters with depth who do the unexpected, have enough redeeming qualities to make you love them, and enough limitations, struggles and issues to make you root for them as they move through the story.
Creativity: Creativity is such an interesting one because it's sometimes hard to judge. The question to ask here is whether you bring something new to the table. In cooking, you might put together a salad (on old standby) but do it in a new and interesting way. The same is true of your writing. Is the writing fresh and original? Do you avoid cliched situations, characters and relationships? Do you have a fun new twist that will keep the reader guessing or surprise them?

Maybe I've just had Chopped on the mind, but I think the analogy works. All of these elements are important to great writing.So what do you think? How would you go about making your writing gourmet?


  1. Great analogy Sierra :-) I think one of the main components of writing is craft, so perhaps this is the "presentation" part. Can you construct a sentence correctly, have you eliminated all unnecessary or repeated words, have you done your research, etc. The "taste" bit for me is a bit like genre - the type of story. And then the creativity is in how you tell it, the voice and how the characters are made to shine. All three are very important.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Charlotte! I think it's official - I may start 'hiring' you to write my posts for me =) You hit right on the mark. All of those elements are really essential to make a story shine.

  2. Replies
    1. Why thanks! You know I love any comparison with food. Actually, I just love food in general ;)