I lurk on yahoo groups and blogs sifting for useful nuggets to stash away into my very rough plan of self-publishing. Maybe I’ll delve into that plan someday.
Today I’m going to prattle on about cooking, and how it may apply to writing.
My family are picky eaters. There’s no other way to say it. Well before my children were even conceived, I announced to my husband I would no longer cook with him in mind. “I’m going to make what I like and what I think sounds good,” I said after year five. “If you like it, fine. If you don’t, there’s the kitchen. Make your own dinner.”
And he frequently did. He still does.
He will not eat cooked vegetables of any sort. A friend once came over with a lovely beef stew to share. I made her and her husband get their bowls first – only then would I let my husband get his bowl, and he did exactly what I anticipated he would do.
He picked out all the bits of meat, leaving behind nothing but vegetables. My friend never again accused me of exaggeration.
He will not touch any kind of cream sauce. He will not eat potatoes. Of the raw vegetables, he will only eat cucumbers, green beans, snap peas, celery and carrots. If he orders a side salad at a restaurant, he orders it without dressing, only eats the croutons and passes the remainder over to me. He will only eat the lettuce if he’s “feeling dehydrated.”
If I make spaghetti with tomato sauce, they must remain separate because he will only eat the noodles with butter on them and the sauce with bread. On the same plate, in the same sitting.
When he eats cereal, he eats it dry, with a spoon and a glass of milk at his elbow, but he will not eat the cereal with the milk in it.
His daughter Sara is ten times pickier than he is. Daniel I have a 50-50 chance at getting him to try something so long as either of two conditions are met:
a) all his friends are eating it
b) ketchup is available to drown it
I find some writers to be like my husband in their style. The way in which they are like my husband has nothing to do with the quantity or quality of their output, so much as the variety, or lack thereof.
I’m not complaining about genre – some writers have a thing for romance. Others have a way with horror. Some can turn a tale with science fiction or fantasy or understand the intricacies of alternate history fiction or what-have-you. Some can do cross-overs. Some can write completely different works in completely different genres. A few have a zen for erotica. What they write, they write well. They understand their story, the world they created and the rules they’ve assigned to that world.
“Purple mushrooms are the only safe food because unicorns pissed all over the earth and sniffing azaleas is a federal offense as per President Ulysses S. Grant’s treaty with vampire space aardvarks.” Fine. I’m with you.
But there are those authors that piss me off to no end. Some are huge names in the world of books, others are nobodies. I don’t care about your popularity or how many you’ve produced and sold. What I care about is whether or not you’re telling me a story that can keep me interested and invested as a reader.
That means plot twists. That means new material. That means taking a sharp left when I thought you would go right and making me say “Holy shit! I did not see that coming, but not only does it fit, all the clues were there and I missed it!”
Instead, I see a lot of writers finding a formula they like, and sticking to it. Perhaps they do it because they enjoy the story and see eight different iterations in their heads, but can’t decide which one they like best, so they write them all. Perhaps this particular plot resulted in a shitload of sales twelve years ago and the writer felt compelled to keep with what makes the money.
My problem is this:
It’s the same damned story, jerk-off. You just changed the names.
Hilariously, my husband feels the same way about books. But I imagine he would be thrilled to eat schnitzel and pulled pork barbeque every day for the rest of his life (a little bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one).
There are different kinds of schnitzel, but the underlying concept is the same for all of them. You take a piece of meat – veal, lamb, pork, beef, whatever – pound the hell out of it until it’s about 1/3 of an inch thick, coat it in a wet batter, then a dry mix of some kind, and fry until golden.
You can add spices to the batters, certainly. You can change them up – “instead of using just a regular flour mix, I threw in some ground up potato chips” or “I tried paprika and garlic powder with the spices this time.” “I only used egg-whites” or even “I fried them in bacon grease instead of vegetable oil.”
But at the end of the day, it’s still schnitzel.
“There’s a garnish of fresh parsley on the plate. Did you notice?”
No matter how you try to dress it up, it’s still friggin’ schnitzel.
“There’s a pickle on the side.”
Can have an apple pie?
“Ooooo … no apples today. Chicken fried steak?”
That’s schnitzel. You just slapped a different name on it.
“I have escalope.”
I have a desire to put a gun barrel in your mouth.
Perhaps I’m too judgmental. Maybe my mismatched sneakers are on too tight (Yes, they are mismatched, and yes, I do it on purpose.). Maybe I’ve looked at one too many recipes trying to decide what to make for dinner, but getting tired of being the only person who eats what I make (The fact that my husband brags to his friends that he lucked out that I’m a good cook only serves to irritate me.).
I like variety, dammit.