On a recent “snow day” while the kids were home from school, I decided to bake pumpkin bread. I assembled the ingredients, took out a mixing bowl and measuring utensils, and got started. The recipe I chose is so easy, it’s almost sinful. Everything goes in one bowl. First you blend the eggs, oil and sugar. Next come the dry ingredients. Finally, you stir in the pumpkin, pour the batter into two greased loaf pans, and fifty minutes later out pop two fragrant loaves perfect for tea and conversation with a good friend.
But somehow, in the distraction of kids coming in and out of the house in snowy gear, I goofed! Granted, the batter did seem a bit thick and gloppy, not to mention scant, as I divided it between the two pans. But I knew I’d measured everything properly, so I dismissed that little inner voice that said, “Something’s missing!” Indeed, it was not those loaves had been baking for seven minutes that I noticed the pumpkin can, still unopened, on the counter. I was making pumpkin bread without the pumpkin! I quickly removed the loaves, scraped the hot batter back into my mixing bowl, stirred in the key ingredient, re-filled the loaf pans, and put them back in to bake. Miraculously, they turned out.
But those loaves got me thinking. When writing stories, we may have lots of good ingredients – great characters, fun premises, clever settings, perfect meter and rhyme, and delectable word choice. But, if we lack the most important ingredient our story will be scant or, as editors prefer to label it, slight. So what’s the story book equivalent to pumpkin? If you guessed, conflict, then you get the first slice of my tasty bread. That’s right, a story without conflict, is like pumpkin bread without the pumpkin!
So, dear writer friends, this week as you mix up your latest story batter, don’t forget the most important ingredient of all – the conflict!