The Right Ingredients

I love to cook and bake. I scour cookbooks, watch cooking shows, and stalk Pinterest for new and exciting recipes to try out on my family. While most have been successful, there have been some that I'll never attempt again. The main reason a recipe doesn't work is because you do not follow the it. Another reason, you just don't have the right ingredients or the right ratio of ingredients.

As with cooking, writing needs the right ingredients in order to create an engaging story with compelling characters and strong conflict. I think we can all agree the five needed elements or ingredients to a story are Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict, and Theme. But there are also the spices and seasoning needed to enhance a story.

In regards to Characters, you need to hone your voice and know your genre in order to create the right
type of character. Think about Harlequin Presents - the hero is a super alpha male. This type of hero would not work with Love Inspired, just as hot pepper wouldn't work vanilla cake. Each Character needs to have GMC (Goals, Motivation, and Conflict). If a Character does not have these elements, they will not ring true to the story or plot, their actions and reactions will not be internally driven. GMC can change and shift -- thus the Character Arc.

The Character Arc is essential to a character just as milk is essential to ice cream, as ground beef is to
a hamburger. Each main character and sub characters, if the plot dictates, experiences an Arc. Your characters meet, mix together, sense an attraction, their conflict causes the climax, and resolution. In cooking terms, I've mixed all of the ingredients, some may have been a little tricky (think souffle) and when all is done, there is the satisfaction as the characters have faced the differences, conflicts, keep them apart and they profess their undying love.

As we plot our story, there needs to be pacing and the ebb and flow of the story, much like a sound wave when there is the rising action, climax, and resolution. As the plot begins to simmer, characters meet, create a relationship. The internal and external conflicts flavor each action and reaction. We still need to nurture our characters much as we'd baby a souffle to ensure they are true to the story, themselves, and readers will be drawn to the characters, believe in the characters.

Conflict drives a story, drives a characters thoughts, actions, reactions and dialogue. Conflict needs to be strong, full of spice in order to have a reason for the characters to be in the story. Each of the main characters has to have an internal conflict or else there wouldn't be a reason for the characters to be apart, there wouldn't be a reason for the characters to fight to be together. External conflict adds another layer, just as you build a cake, you have a layer, add the frosting, add another layer, then another layer of frosting.

Setting seems to be the easiest part of the story, especially since the internet has arrived. Obviously, you need to determine the correct setting for your genre and story. Just as you need to determine what side dishes will accompany the main dish, which wine, and what type of dessert. There are aspects of a story that needs to be a historical, just as there are elements of a story or plot and character that dictate the need for the story to be a fantasy or contemporary.

Theme is important, but the part I truly think of the least when I write. Recently, someone asked me the theme of my novel Wolf's Castle. To be honest, as I was writing the story I may not have been able to answer, but now I know it instantly. Not every story will have a theme just as the theme should not be preaching at you during the story.

And as with many recipes, a good, full bodied wine is recommended!

That's it according to Maddy~


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