September 13th is International Chocolate Day – and it has made me think about the connection between chocolate and writing. No, I don’t mean rewarding yourself with a chocolate chip cookie for having written a certain amount of words – I mean that there are surprising parallels between both. Here’s what writers can learn from chocolate.
First impressions count: Chocolate has us from the first bite. As soon as we sink our teeth into the sweet bliss and our taste buds are tickled, we’re gone – and we want more. Exactly that is what good writing should also do. Make the first lines / chapter of your book and the beginning of each chapter count. Make it a feast for the senses so the reader has no choice but to read on. Leave a lasting impression right from the start, like tasty chocolate melting in your mouth.
Don’t forget about the middle! I’m a huge fan of chocolate with creamy filling. Sweets with an exciting filling go that extra length. They thrill us even more than plain chocolate. We savour them with relish, and if we know about the crunchy core we work our way toward it layer by layer with anticipation. Oreo cookies come to mind, After Eight chocolate and many, many more temptations like Snickers with nuts and caramel.
Show, don’t tell: Chocolate advertisements and packing are all about showing and not telling. No manufacturer will describe the taste in a long text or come up with a load of adjectives and adverbs. Instead, customers are enticed with sensual commercials that make the mouth water. Droolworthy graphics on the packing that show the filling and / or ingredients and the supposed feel and taste are what make us buy the product. Writing should be like that too. Pull the reader into the story and make him a part of it. You need to talk to them instead of talking at them. And don’t forget about the book cover. If chocolate pudding looks like poo and a biscuit is totally out of shape, you won’t eat and enjoy it. So the book cover needs to catch attention and hint at the delicious treat ahead.
Practice makes perfect. If you bake a chocolate cake or try your hand at an enticing chocolate mousse recipe, the chances are high that the first result will suck. Maybe the cake is too dry or too sweet, maybe the icing looks wrong or the decoration is all over the place. Or you burned your first cake because you kept it in the oven for too long. It’ll be much the same with your first book or at least first draft. There’s got to be a second draft, lots of revising and editing, and even more dedication. Write, write, write until the book cake looks tempting and the great taste stays in the reader’s mind for a long time. Create books that make the reader addicted to your style. Make the first book of a series so convincing that he hungers for the next installments.
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