PUMPKIN BREAD: Thoughts on Baking Good Stories

pumpkin breadOn 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!

20 thoughts on “PUMPKIN BREAD: Thoughts on Baking Good Stories

  1. Yum! Great analogy again, Laura! My biggest cooking mistake was not reading the pkg in Korean correctly and so I put baking soda instead of powdered sugar into my icing. I don’t even want to remember the horrible taste!

  2. I love the analogy, Laura. But you post reminded me of an incident that happened when I was a little girl. My grandmother forgot the SUGAR in her pumpkin mix. And it was too late to fix it.

  3. Delightful post, Laura. There are lots of similarities between cooking and writing. Love your pumpkin bread analogy, and I’m craving some right now. 🙂

  4. Funny story! I’ve done things like that too. I think it’s important to note that you dismissed your inner voice. In writing, we often know when something isn’t quite right, but sometimes it feels easier to ignore that feeling and just hope for the best. A good reminder to pay attention to your inner voice! And now you’ve made me very hungry…

  5. That pumpkin bread looks yummy! But yep, you gotzda add the pumpkin!! I laughed my butt up at that because it is definitely something I would do myself! Thanks for the laugh and the analogy to writing is so true!

  6. So glad throwing the pumpkin in to the hot mixture and rebaking worked (yep, I’ve done that too). Yes, conflict is critical, and I’d like to add desire. Sometimes my characters don’t “want” enough and come across as flat or without direction. Yearning something definitely help gives my story direction.

  7. Pingback: PUMPKIN TIME: Thoughts to Inspire Your Writing | Laura Sassi Tales

  8. That pumpkin bread looks delicious! Now every time I think of pumpkin pie (my favorite pumpkin thing) I will think of conflict in a story. Nice way to remember. Thanks.

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