Sunday, January 28, 2007

Chunky or Smooth? Or How I Changed Peanut Butters and Learned How to Write Differently

I love Peanut Butter. I grew up eating it mixed with syrup. Kind of gags me to think of it now, but then, oh what a treat. Now, I just settle for a little jelly and a couple of slices of bread and I'm a happy camper. I've always favored the chunky kind. When you take a bite, you feel like you've got a mouthful of peanuts...yum.

A few weeks ago, on a lark...admittedly my larks these days aren't as exciting as they were when I was younger...I purchased the smooth variety and fell in love. Wow, it had such a different texture, I found myself really enjoying it and decided that's what I'll buy from now on.

The other day I started getting a craving for chunky peanut butter, so next time we need peanut butter, I'll probably go with the chunky again.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well for me, quite a lot. Up until a few months ago, I wrote in a linear fashion...as it happened in my mind...just like a movie, so it appeared on my computer screen. It was smooth, seamless...like creamy, smooth peanut butter.

I started writing a new book late last summer. And it was going nicely...you know, that smooth variety. Then BAM! Out of no where, all of these scenes started hitting me...yep, you got it, in chunks and completely out of order. At first, I panicked and screamed to my characters, "Wait, that's not supposed to happen for a few more chapters!" Do you think they listened? Of course not. They kept on doing what characters have done since the beginning of storytelling. Disdain dripping from their much too attractive faces, they snapped, "Keep up!" and then they were off.

So, forgetting all about my preference for smooth, linear writing, I wrote what they told me to write, when they told me to write it...you know, chunky style. And it worked...I finished the manuscript and it taught me a lesson. There's no one way to write a book...you have to go with the story and how the characters are telling it to you.

Chunky or smooth...sometimes it's just not up to you.

So next time you're in the grocery store, reaching for your usual type of peanut butter, go with the other kind and see where it takes you.

How about you, are you a chunky or smooth writer?

4 comments:

Karen Beeching said...

I'd have to say the story comes to me in chunks, but when I sit down to write it, I smooth it all together.

Great analogy, Christy.

Barb C. said...

After reading your blog Christy, I think I'm both kinds of peanut butter. In my head, I'm smooth. My stories write themselves in perfect order, from start to finish. On the computer screen, it comes out chunky. I'm cruising along in a scene, then all of a sudden, my characters want to move here or there, jump in the pond, have a fight or just go to sleep. I'm screaming "No, no, no. Not yet!!!" but they just won't listen. They are on their best behavior in my head but as their story unfolds on the computer screen, watch out!! Sometimes I tell them, "Ok, fine. Write your own story then!!" Silent surrounds me after that...

I know being chunky works for a lot of people, but I'm a smooth planner. I like to know where I'm going, who I'm going to see and what I'm going to do long before I leave my house. ;-)

Barbara C.

Carla Swafford said...

I go with the flow. Whatever the characters want, they get. They're more powerful than I am. I'm merely their servant. So I switch back and forth.

JoAnn said...

It really doesn't matter whether it's chunky or creamy -- my stories come in big, messy globs that just smear themselves all over the paper. Sometimes I can clean it up, sometimes I can't. :-)