If your writing was a smoothie, what would it be?
Do you know your own likes, dislikes, passions, and if-I-even-get-a-whiff-of-banana-I’m-gonna-throw-up?
Writers need to know what ingredients go into their favourite stories, so we can create delicious masterpieces of our own. If we don’t, our second act could end up a mash of milk, orange juice, spinach and blended Happy Meal. And the inconsistent branding won’t be much better.
To identify the ideal ingredients for your writing smoothie, ask yourself these questions:
· What titles are in the stack of books that inspire me?
· What DVDs have the least dust on my shelf?
· What are the elements of these stories that most appeal to me?
· What in life makes me angry?
Drill down into the details of these questions, and look for patterns between movies/books you admire and your own writing.
To use myself as an example, here’s my ‘smoothie’:
Ingredient 1: Storylines involving families.
Examples: While You Were Sleeping, Admission, Just Go With It, Blended.
Ingredient 2: Comedy.
Examples: Any book by Jenny B Jones, Janet Evanovich, Sophie Kinsella, and pretty much any sit com on TV.
Ingredient 3: I’m not sure how to describe this, except to say ‘authentic’, ‘real’, or ‘no filter’.
Examples: Any book by Christa Parrish. I can smell, taste and feel her books like no one else’s. For movies, I’d have to choose ‘You Instead’ (also released as ‘You’re Mine Tonight’), which was actually filmed in 5 days at the Scottish music festival where it was set. It’s hard to describe, except to say that most movies are kind of like Instagram pics with filters, while this movie was filter-free.
Ingredient 4: Teamwork and banter.
Examples: Castle, NCIS LA, Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Ingredient 5: Messiness.
Example: This one comes from real life. Something that really affected me growing up was the split and rapid decline of my childhood church - a reality that was drastically different to the picture-perfect churches I read about in Christian fiction (not that there's anything wrong with that, I just noticed it due to my particular life situation at the time). This experience means I like to express the complicatedness of real life and the church, while also showing God’s faithfulness.
These five ingredients, combined with a sweet base of romance, mean my writing can be summed up as ‘romantic comedy in a messy world’.
Knowing these ingredients helps me to develop my storylines, produce more consistent marketing, and to identify what new book ideas are likely to sustain my interest.
From a reader’s perspective, knowing an author’s passions helps me to connect with them more, and to tell if I’m likely to be interested in their work.
So, how about it? What are your favourite ‘ingredients’, and how do you like to combine them to create a masterpiece? What inspires you?
Jessica Everingham is a 24 year-old Aussie who writes romantic comedy for a messy world. Her manuscript, Hating Jeremy Walters, was a finalist in the 2015 My Book Therapy Frasier Award and runner-up in the 2015 Australian Christian Writers Contemporary Romance Contest.
Jessica loves it when readers and writers connect with her on social media or email. Smoke signals are also acceptable.