Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writing Wednesday: The Good Host & The Perfect Guest

I have recently been taken in by a show on satellite TV here, on French channel M6. The show is called Un diner presque parfait, which translates to, A near perfect dinner. It runs for 5 days every week, in one specific region of France every week. 5 strangers, decided by the production crew, meet and invite each other for dinner every day. Each contestant is then judged by the remaining 4 guests on the food, the table decoration, and the ambiance/atmosphere of the dinner. The one with the highest average, wins.

Nothing complicated there, true. But what I like watching is the score sheets. Was the food actually related to what the menu proclaimed? Was there a theme to the food from appetizer, entree, main course and dessert? Was the theme respected in the decoration/layout of the table? Was the ambiance too in accordance with the theme? Did the host manage to wing it all together?

What my point, you may ask? Well, every story you write is akin to this near perfect dinner, and your readers are the numerous guests coming to sample your brand as a host. The key to your dinner layout is logic, as logic is the key behind your every writing.

True - logic is primordial for paranormal mythology because you are stating about something that doesn't exactly exist and which needs to be conveyed to the reader. The same happens for fantasy (think Tolkien's world, setup, hierarchy) or urban fantasy (think Underworld, how the vamps and weres now exist in the world as we currently know it).

But, a big but here, is that logic doesn't simply apply to a world you are creating from scratch. Logic applies to every world you put across in your story.

Say for example, I am writing about present day London. London is vast, and the area of Walthamstow with it popular markets is very different from the classy areas of Belgravia or Hampstead Heath. How does logic play here? Well, the 'normal', everyday person goes grocery shopping, right? Asda, Tesco's - these are the common shops everyone goes to. But, an upscale snob will not go there. More like Harrod's for their shopping, even the basic stuff. So if you are writing about a modern day London snob who lives in Belgravia or Knightsbridge going out to pop into the nearby Asda that's just around the corner from the hottest spot of the area... Bleep!! That is not logical! A snob doesn't mingle with the commoners, and wouldn't be caught dead in a commoner's shop! Not to mention that such commoner's shops wouldn't be found in such areas normally.

Another example - you are writing a Regency historical. Your heroine is making her debut this Season, and the rogue hero has his eye on her from the minute she appears at her first ball. A waltz comes in, and he sweeps her into his arms and they twirl across the floor-- Bleep!! Wait a second, sugar. You don't dance a waltz so easily in Regency times, especially as a debutante. You need society's approval first, the voucher for Almack, and the old crones' permission to waltz, before you go waltzing. The easiest way to fall from grace would be to dance the waltz before getting this approval.
Here, the logic of the time applies. What makes sense to us today need not apply to a different era.

Now, back to out near-perfect dinner comparison. You write about either of the two scenarios above, and your 'guests' bring out the score cards (reviews, sales figures, word of mouth). You will not be in line with your theme in the Regency setting, the same kind of faux-pas of presenting red wine with fish and, on top, the red wine is chilled! With the London scenario, you strike the faux-pas of your theme about, say, the richness of summer, but your table, with its red, green and white colors, striking as a festive table for Christmas.

Your genre is your theme, and from this theme, you present the dishes (your plot and story), the decoration (your setup, setting, your era's logic, your mythology), and your ambiance (your distinctive voice to bring it all together). Think logically around your theme, and it should all fall into place.

Any question, feel free to holler!

From Mauritius with love,


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