Cindy is a poet, a pistol-packing pilot, a polo player, and a pioneer. How's that for alliteration? I asked Cindy if she could write up what she said about judging, and she graciously responded with the following essay.
Writing crowd-pleaser stories is like baking blue-ribbon pies.
First, one must use the right ingredients: whipped-topping-titles, sweet- beginnings, elements-of-style-strawberries, and pie-crust- structure.
Second, one must use the correct amount of ingredients. The right ingredient in the wrong proportion creates a taste-disaster. Biting into a bakery product that has one cup of corn starch and three tablespoons of sugar (instead of the other way around) causes the pie to end up in the trash pile.
How many times have we heard the following? Title, Beginning, Style, and Structure Matters.
To further our comparison of storytelling and strawberry pie, let’s slice the story pie into four quarters: Title, Beginning, Style, and Structure.
I. The whipped-topping-title is bold, fresh, and powerfully delicious. It gives the reader a heads-up regarding the content of the story. It gets our attention. One way to create a tasty title is to riff on titles that have already been winners, for example War and Peace. Isn’t that more effective than War: What Is It Good For?
II. The sweet-beginning stands for a delicious first sentence and a provocative first paragraph. Using a well known beginning as a starting point can be helpful. In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott establishes the personalities of her main characters in the first four sentences:
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. “It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress. “I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things and other girls to have nothing at all,” added little Amy with an injured sniff. “We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.
III. The elements-of-style-strawberry stands for all of the technical aspects of storytelling. Some components of style are: voice, grammar, and punctuation. One of the best books on style is Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, the time honored style-made-simple book.
IV. The pie-crust-structure is the foundation of the story pie. It gives the reader footing to move around on. In Heather Seller’s The Practice of Creative Writing, we learn that prose structure is made up of bits, beats, and scenes. Bits are images, beats are causes and effects, and scenes are made-up of beats.
Title, Beginning, Style, and Structure Matters. Crowd-pleaser storytelling is like award-winning strawberry pie. They both make life taste better.