Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Flavoring Your Story

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Some people enjoy spending hours in the kitchen cooking a delicious meal. Those who do most likely have a favorite dinner they like to prepare. I have two; turkey and lasagna. About mid-morning on Thanksgiving Day, my mouth begins to water as the aroma of turkey roasting wafts through the house. The same holds true when I have a tray of lasagna baking in the oven. But unlike an hour’s prep time before the turkey goes into the oven, there’s more to making lasagna than just layering pasta, cheese, and sauce into a baking dish. 
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Being 1/4 Italian and from New York, the key ingredient to a great-tasting lasagna, other than whole milk cheese and a wooden spoon, is the sauce. Many people and restaurants use sauce from a jar or cans of diced tomatoes to make their lasagna. In my opinion, that is wrong on so many counts. For that delicious, melt-in-your-mouth taste, the sauce needs to cook for days, not hours. The puree, spices, and meats need time to marry together. The longer they simmer the thicker and more flavorful the sauce. I usually simmer sauce for 3 to 7 days, refrigerating overnight. 

What does making sauce have to do with writing? More than you might think. As with any dish, too much, too little, or too many spices will sometimes ruin a meal. The same applies to crafting a western romance.
As with any dish, the right spices make your taste buds zing. The same applies to crafting a western romance. Instead of garlic and oregano, the author satisfies the reader’s appetite by flavoring in speech, descriptions, mannerisms, and the hum-drum of everyday life true to the era. If the story is set in the 1800’s, the heroine wouldn’t curl her hair with a plug-in curling iron. In modern times, she wouldn’t wear longs skirts and petticoats unless she was attending a costume party. But, as holds true with the spices you add to your food, overuse of flavoring can kill your story. Readers like to envision as much as they like vivid description.

Another way to flavor your story is by sprinkling in sounds and smellsJosh pulled his bandanna up over his nose as he stared at the carcass lying near the creek. Or with action―touching a finger to a hat brim or flicking the reins over the team of horses pulling the stagecoach keep the reader in historic times. The shrill ringing of the telephone or the sleek curves of the red Corvette keep the reader in present day.  

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Flavoring doesn't just apply to western romance. Many eras have their own dialect and wardrobe. If you're setting reflects the Roaring ‘20’s or Viking warriors, invest the time to learn the terminology and everyday life of your time frame. Gently fold the terms and descriptions into your story and your readers will savor your subtle flavoring in the same fashion your family relishes the meals you cook. 

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