Sunday, March 18, 2012
Recognizable Ingredients... The Pieces Of A Good Story
The test was quite weird. They put drops on your arms and then prick you to see if welts rise up on your arms. Through the test, I found out that I have a mild allergy to soy. My fiance found it pretty darn hilarious that I'm allergic to tofu. (I have been trying to get him to eat tofu for years.) I thought it wouldn't be a big deal. I mean, I don't drink soy milk and I can stop eating tofu and soy sauce. Well, as it turns out, soy is in just about everything. So for the next two weeks while I'm going off soy to see if it makes a difference, I have to be very careful. Because soy is in pretty much every processed product known to man. Breads, most cereals, most frozen meals, bouillon cubes, even the delicious pre-made pizza that my fiance's parents dropped off for us today.
And that is how I ended up in Whole Foods, scanning the Ingredient Lists for all I was worth. My fiance has a natural aversion to Whole Foods, because they don't sell diet soda, a food that is central to his existence. But in this case, he agreed that Whole Foods might actually help.
Here's the other kicker... soy has lots of other names on ingredient lists too. Hydrolized Vegetable Protein, Natural Flavoring and even the old standby MSG is made with soy. Since soy has so many different alias, I started hating the Ingredients lists that had twenty five different things that I didn't recognize. TBHQ, Acetic Acid, carmel color, trisodium phosphate... what is this stuff? I started really liking it when I recognized ingredients. Wheat? Fantastic. Eggs? I know what that is. Almonds? Got it.
And it got me thinking. It's the same thing in stories. If there aren't just a few elements that readers recognize, you've lost the ability to have the reader participate in the story. When readers recognize a concept or a setting in the story, it gives them a foothold in the story.
I know this is probably a thought that will ring truer with fantasy and sci-fi writer's more than others. I know it may seem like common sense. But you have to admit, when you get wrapped up in an idea off catapulting into other worlds and making up fun vocabulary names for odd new life forms, sometimes it's good to be reminded that a little bit of familiar can go a long way in a story.