Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Peanut Butter and Mayo Sandwiches

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Have you ever tried to mash two foods together that normally wouldn’t be mashed, or watched someone eat two mashed together things and winced? For instance, if you google odd mashed together food choices you come up with things like this: peanut butter and mayo sandwiches, popcorn and mustard, pancakes and ketchup, Fritos dipped in caramel sauce and chocolate cake with pinto beans. My own brother used to put mustard on ice cubes and eat that when we were young. Surprisingly, none of the above mentioned food combinations makes me run to the fridge excited about trying something new. At all.

What did make me excited was the thought of a twist in my book. The idea came to me in a flash and it seemed right for my main female character, so I started writing it. It really fleshed out her character and gave her a lot of direction, both things of which she had been lacking. It also gave me a great platform for my book, since it was somewhat of a timely issue.

The problem came because her backstory and “direction,” didn’t exactly jive with the rest of the story or character direction. I spent almost two weeks trying to decide how I could best integrate her story with the rest of the book, which frustrated me. I wrote, rewrote, and rewrote again, but nothing seemed to be working. Everything I came up with sounded forced no matter how I tried to mash it together. But in my heart I really wanted it to work because it was so timely and I was proud of myself for thinking of it.

After another week of banging my head trying to get this story to work in with the rest of the book, it finally hit me. It wasn’t working because my job is to tell a continuous, compelling story and I was essentially trying to mash two potentially great stories together that, in this instance, didn’t belong. My story was the peanut butter and the character’s story was the mayo. Or the story was the pancakes and the character’s story was the ketchup, if you get my drift. It was sort of an epiphany for me because I realized that I was going to have to scrap my character’s story for now for the good of this book. (But I consoled myself that I could make it a book of its own someday). I also realized that I had my work cut out for me with the main story. My character didn’t have direction because I hadn’t gotten into her head with the story that was already there and I was taking the lazy way out in inventing a story for her that she would fit into. So, I’m starting from square one with this character and really getting down to the nitty gritty with her and her part in my story---which I should have done from the beginning.

You might think that having to start over with this character would be discouraging, but I’m actually excited about it. (Well, okay, I had a hard time letting it go at first, but now I’m excited.) For one, I know myself better when it comes to writing her, I know her better from thinking about her so often over the last three weeks, and I think I have a better grasp on where she’s at emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It’s actually nice for me not to be thinking about how she’s going to fit, but thinking about where she already fits and digging deeper into the possibilities. It’s like separating the two “foods”, and knowing it’s for the best. At least it is for my writing appetite.

Although I think that now I’ve written this blog, I’m going to give her a characteristic that she likes odd food choices mashed together. That sounds appropriate, don’t you think?


6 Comments:

At 2/11/2010 6:55 PM, Blogger Daron D. Fraley said...

This was both helpful and timely for something I am working on right now. Thanks Julie!

 
At 2/11/2010 7:09 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

In my first apartment away from home, I had this odd mix of roommates - one from NY, one from Morocco, one from Columbia.

Two of my favorite things to eat were tuna fish sandwiches and a bowl of corn (whole kernel). Well, Roberto noticed that I liked to use the sandwich press to heat up my sandwiches, so he suggested I add the corn to it and then heat it. Tuna fish and corn sandwiches were born!

Also, my uncle liked to put grape jelly on his scrambled eggs. *wince*

 
At 2/11/2010 7:26 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

You're welcome, Daron! And Jon, I'm totally wincing with you.

 
At 2/11/2010 8:09 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

What a great idea, Julie!(My lil' brother loves to add mashed potatoes to his turkey sandwiches. Weird.)

 
At 2/11/2010 11:16 PM, Blogger Nathan said...

Try eating cornbread and drinking apple juice sometime. That packs a punch that you'd never expect.

It's funny to see how my file for backstory is starting to catch up to the manuscript size.

 
At 2/12/2010 9:42 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

My grandsons dip everything in ketchup--green beans, cheese, grapes. Everything.

Liked your comparison on the story. So many times I've had to tell authors they've got two stories going on (which is a different thing than having subplots) and they need to pick one and add depth.

 

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