Ideas are wonderful and wily things. We chase them around, trying to catch their tails so we can pull them to us and write them down – capture them on the page. Creating a new story involves not just one idea, but many. Hundreds (if not thousands) of them must be woven together seamlessly to create the many-coloured threads of a novel.
I’ve discussed before that ideas don’t just pop into existence fully formed, but must be cultivated over a long period of time. Some people let them come together naturally in their mind. Some people do writing exercises to draw them out. Today I decided to bake them into existence.
Many of you may recall that baking is often a bad sign for me – a clear indicator that I’m having a bad day and need cheering up – but not today. For me, ideas best come together when my body is engaged in an activity but my mind is left free to wander. I find if I pose myself a question at the beginning of the task, by the end it tends to be answered. So…
- The Challenge: To create lemon and ricotta baked doughnuts (with the help of my new lipstick-red Kitchen Aid)
- The Goal: To get to know several of my characters better (I’m working on a young adult urban fantasy, and have two ‘bad guys’ that I know in name alone)
I thought I’d share with you the recipe I followed for my idea chasing:
- While I combined the batter ingredients, I considered what I already knew about my two bad guys
- While I kneaded the dough, I realised one wasn’t a guy at all and readjusted my thoughts on her (a sex change takes a while to get your head around)
- While I creamed the ricotta and lemon filling, I considered what they wanted in life and the motivations that could drive them through the story
- While I cut out the dough rounds and stuffed them with filling, I wondered about their childhoods and how their experiences had shaped them as people
- While I watched the dough rise and brown in the oven, I considered the consequences of their choices and how they would carry the weight of them
- And finally, while I dipped the cooked batter in butter and rolled them in lemon sugar, I realised these two characters were more interconnected than I’d initially realised
And the outcome of all this baking and thinking? I came away with:
- Two nuanced characters that I’ve discovered I actually care about (bad bits and all)
- An appreciation for bought doughnuts (this recipe took me a good part of the day)
- A happy but very full stomach
Care to join me in a sticky lemon doughnut?