I’m having a guest over…. I supplied her with cookies and coffee and she has kindly blogged for me. (I’m doing the same for her on her blog and that is just one way writers have fun. 😊 – we are easily entertained.)
Rita and I met online (can’t really remember how and where, now) but we connected because we were both releasing our debut novel and decided to support each other. She’s a lovely talented lady who is into horror stories and poetry (like those go together really well, lol). I suggested she write about any topic she liked and this is the wonderful result. Enjoy!
What baking a birthday cake taught me about writing a book!
A while ago I was baking cake for someone’s birthday. I wanted to bake a chocolate cake, but discovered that I had just a little cocoa left over. It was late at night, and our nearest shop is 33.6km away. And it’s not open 24 hours. I started baking at 8, but it closed at 5 already.
So I baked a vanilla cake.
But, in the morning, after the cake cooled down, I looked at it with a heavy heart. It was so boring. I really hate boring things.
White cake. Vanilla flavoured. How mediocre can you get?
I made the icing. White. Vanilla flavoured. Boring. I dallied, sore about slapping more white on the white. My heart cringed at the idea. I’m not a boring person, and I love colour and diversity and pizzazz.
This cake lacked flair.
My Hubbie came by, saw me standing there with the proverbial hands in the hair.
“It so boring,” I said, gesturing at the cake,
“Then why did you bake a boring cake?”
“Because there was too little cocoa for a chocolate cake.”
“But there is some?”
“Yes, but only about a teaspoon’s worth.”
“Won’t that be enough to make the icing chocolate?”
“Yes,” I said with sparkling eyes.
“So make chocolate icing.”
It sounded like great advice, so I did just that. But later that day, as I cleaned up at the friend’s house, my cake was the main thing left over on the plates we carried to the kitchen.
I could not understand why. So I tasted it. It tasted really good. But why was so much of it left uneaten? I was dumping my cake in the bin when a woman whom I never met before leaned closer and whispered in my ear.
“I don’t know who made that cake, but that was just evil. It looked like a chocolate cake, it smelt like a chocolate cake, but then inside, it wasn’t a chocolate cake.”
So, what does this teach me about writing?
Your book has to deliver on what it promises.
1. The cover.
If your cover deceives people, they will soon know it. Your cover has to not only speak about the theme of your book, but also give a clear sign of what genre the reader can expect. It is the icing of your story. Make sure it matches with what is inside.
2. The characters
Your characters should have an arc. Their lives must have some kind of movement. A lesson learned. A path travelled. Your character might start on the bottom, move to the middle and end on top. Or, he might start on top and end on the bottom, but be a better person then he was before.
However, as you try to accomplish this, your character has to stay true to self. If he is a chocolate cake, he cannot act like a vanilla, unless he is deceiving someone deliberately. I cannot tell you how often I read stories where a character is a vanilla cake all through the story, except for on page 95 where he is doing something that fits the twist in the plot, but not his vanilla flavoured centre.
I have stopped reading books because of characters that have changed flavour again and again and again.
3. The genre.
Yes, I love twists in my stories. As a reader and a writer I want interesting things to happen. I also love that these days you can write one book and include two or three genres in the story. That said, you have to know where to draw the line, or everything will blow up in your face.
I love a little taste of peanut butter in my chocolate cake. Once I ate a chocolate cake with coconut. I even had some with orange. All these were wonderful, and new. They gave chocolate cake a great twist.
But I’m not sure if I’m ready for orange coconut chocolate cake. In that same way, a novel with lots of horror, a bit of mystery and a little paranormal might work, but please don’t drag sci-fi in there too because that’s going to spoil the broth.
4. The setting.
Often people sit down and plan a story. They find the characters. They plot out an outline. They might even start to write a good part of the story.
After a while they stand back and look at it. And they think: this is boring.
Then, to add some pizzazz, they change the setting to some exotic place. And write the story with a little sprinkle of setting here and there. Let me tell you, readers will not be fooled by this. They will pick up really fast that you are trying to sell them vanilla under chocolate icing.
You have to know the setting before you define the character. Unless your character is an alien to the setting, the setting will define who he is. A mining town has people vastly different from those found in an inner city metropolis, like New York.
Let’s say Tom is a business person in New York, and Pete is the fire marshal from a mining town. Success to these men will be two different things. Failure too. They will face different kinds of crisis, and overcome them in different ways. Both Tom and Pete are working with customers. Tom will feel successful if he had lots of customers this month, Pete when he has few. To Tom failure is when he does not reach his goal in sales, but to Pete failure is if someone died in a fire. If Tom fails, he might beef up marketing, and drop the prizes of merchandise. When Pete fails, he might seek therapy for his men to help them cope, and insist that they practise more regularly to be better prepared in future.
How do you make sure you stay focussed?
I write a few sentences about my genre, plot, setting, and each of my characters. Not more than a full-page altogether. I read this every time I sit down to write, just to remind myself what kind of cake I’m baking.
Because I’d hate for people to send my cake to the kitchen again!
Rita Kruger is a wife, mother to many, and writer. She lives in the Free State province of South Africa where nothing is free, and everything is in a state.
Rita Kruger told stories before she could write them. From childhood she was addicted to books, finding in them an escape from her boring life. Reading showed her mankind at its best and worst, took her to places she will never be, and taught her to never stop dreaming. She told stories every day, but never wrote them down. Until now.
Rita has experience in the field of counselling, which gives her intimate knowledge of people, the way they think, the dreams they will die for, their nightmares and the monsters they run from. Her genres of choice is horror, thriller and fantasy. Her debut horror/ paranormal novel, THE WOODS, was released in December 2017. She released a biographical poetry collection SNAPSHOT SELFIES, in April 2018. Currently she is working on a fantasy series “Voices of the Apocalypse.” Her writing addresses real life themes of good and evil, right and wrong, love and hate and how easily we cross from one to the other.
Find her at https://www.facebook.com/rita.kruger.9469 or @RitaKrugerWrite on twitter. She is blogging at https://ritakruger1970.wixsite.com/forloveofreading
My books can be found here:
The Woods is free until end of April here: https://claims.instafreebie.com/free/mach4f9C It is for sale here for $1.99: https://www.books2read.com/u/478yGq
Snapshot Selfies for $0.99: https://www.books2read.com/u/4DoMOr
Thankyou so so much Rita for being my very first Guest Blogger. 💜💞💜
My followers – I hope you give some love to Rita and drop her a line, check out her sites and read her work!
Until next time,