Writing a Story is Like Making Candy

Both are a Blend of Science and Magic

Whether crafting stories or candies, one must begin with some basic rules or recipes; the science part, if you will. Stories begin using the science of language (linguistics), which includes the rules of grammar [phonology (sound), morphology (word structure), syntax (the combination of words into sentences), semantics (the ways in which sounds and meanings are related, and the lexicon (mental dictionary of words)]. Candy begins using the science of sugar (including the properties of sugars and fats, the behavior of concentrated syrups and crystallization, and numerous complex interactions that influence taste and texture).

Once the science of language or sugar is understood (and eventually mastered), rules and recipes can be altered a bit to create brand new interpretations. Let’s face it, most fudge recipes, for example, are pretty much the same: sugar, milk, cocoa, and butter. And admittedly, most genre stories follow a standard “recipe”. Take the romance story for instance. The luscious fudge of the writing world, it usually starts with two people meeting and immediately something comes between them. Sometimes it’s the world, or a miscommunication, or more often than not, it’s just their stubborn personalities. As the story progresses, life or the misunderstanding keeps them apart while their feelings for each other grow until at the end of the story they are forced to admit they love each other. A basic recipe.

But what if some nuts and pieces of diced cherries were tossed into the basic fudge recipe? Or brown sugar was used instead of corn syrup? And sometimes it’s not just about adding more ingredients, it’s when they are added. Take marshmallow cream for instance: add it while the fudge is cooking and it will taste completely different than if it were added on top after the fudge has set up. Both recipes are good but the end results are very different.

What makes a story “recipe” different and exciting is not only the number and kind of words used, it’s the settings and the circumstances as well. Take the basic romance recipe and toss in some flavor: Start with a man and a woman shipwrecked on a deserted island. She is the daughter of royalty and he is a ship’s hand. You can imagine the circumstances that might keep them apart until eventually they fall in love. If you add pirates and a lost treasure the story changes flavor. What if she was actually only pretending to be royalty but searching for the treasure? What if he turned out to be the son of a noble and the treasure actually belongs to him?

When it works, the result is a scrumptious twist on an old recipe or a scintillating new story. When it doesn’t work (the altering of rules and recipes that is), it’s usually a disaster, whether a story idea or a candy recipe. The arc fails; the sugar crystallizes incorrectly, the ingredients or characters just don’t blend. The chemistry is somehow wrong. This would be the magic part – it’s either there or it’s not.

Fortunately with both candies and stories, if an attempt at a new interpretation fails, there is an opportunity to learn from the experience and try it again. And perhaps when the science and the magic finally come together, a delicious new confection or a truly unique story will be created.

                                                                                                                                                           

Sources/Props:

Linguistics 101: An Introduction to the Study of Language
Sugar Science: The Art of Candy Making

                                                                                                                                                           

Hello Friends and Fans!

Whether I’m writing a new story or making candy, I’m always looking to improve on the old recipes and add new ones to my “cookbook”. And whether candies or stories, I like a variety of styles, tastes and textures. How about you?

If you enjoy making candies and other confections, be sure to follow my blog posts (or follow me on Pinterest or The Candy Store on Facebook) beginning October 1 for Thursday Treats and beginning October 6 for Tuesday Tricks. Team Poague will be sharing our favorite candy, cookie and cake recipes and a few confection-making tricks we’ve learned along the way. We hope you will share your favorites with us as well!

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Looking for a delicious read? Try The Candy Store, a time travel tale.
“An engaging, bittersweet saga about finding a place to belong”. KIRKUS REVIEWS

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