There must be a rule somewhere in the universe that certain body parts should not be rendered in cake and icing unless they belong to oh, let’s say … Gerard Butler or Richard Armitage or Hugh Jackman or perhaps, this guy?
Some days I truly believe my cake decorators deserve an Oscar. And the award for explaining why she cannot make a cake in the shape of a woman’s “cootchy” without falling in the floor laughing or running to dial 911 goes to …. Fortunately Walmart has a number of very strict rules about what we can and cannot write or depict on a cake. And I have some rules of my own as well. Doesn’t stop the crazy requests. Or the filthy ones. Or the simply strange ones.
Then there are the customers who walk up to the counter with a picture, or pages printed from the internet. Sighting one on approach is guaranteed to cause a stampede of my staff into my freezer the likes of which has not been seen since Noah stood on the deck of the ark and yelled “All aboard!”
“I’ve already looked in your book, but I want my cake to be something unique. Can you make me a cake like this?”
Next there are the customers at the other end of the spectrum. The ones who have no clue what they want, or they know what they want but they can’t explain it, or they don’t know what it is supposed to look like, but they’ll know it when they see it.
“Just make it pretty.”
(Sorry, we only do ugly cakes here.)
“I need you to make a cake for a man. Just make it look like it is for a man.”
(What does that mean? Put a beer can and a football on it?)
“She’s thirteen. What do you usually do for a thirteen year old girl?”
Readers are a lot like bakery customers. Some of them know exactly what they want when they open a book. They will buy books by the same author over and over again because that author always delivers and they know they are guaranteed a great read. They might buy a book by someone they haven’t read before on the recommendation of a friend or after reading a review, but they still have those expectations of a great read. And if it is they have a new “auto-buy” author. And if it isn’t …. Well they probably won’t be trying that author again.
These are the customers who look in the cake design book and pick the same sorts of designs over and over again. They’re easy to work for so long as you remember they want exactly what you advertised and if they don’t get it things could get ugly.
|(You knew I was going to get my man, Richard, in here somehow!)|
Sometimes a reader has a vague idea of what they want. They want a romantic comedy, or a vampire romance, or a historical romance. They buy the book based on the cover blurb or the cover or some intangible thing that speaks to them. Even if their expectations are vague they still have them. If the book fulfills those expectations, even the ones they weren’t quite certain they had, then you had better believe they will be buying that author’s books again.
These are the customers who didn’t know what they wanted when they came in, but if they look at the cake and don’t see it they go nuts. And if they look at the cake and squeal and say “I knew you understood what a wanted. It’s perfect!” then you have basically snatched perfection out of the black hole that is another person’s mind. Now all you have to do is do it again next time.
Some readers have no earthly idea what it is they want. They are searching for something that speaks to them in a voice they never knew they wanted or needed to hear. These are the tough ones, the ones who demand you stretch their imaginations, their psyches and even their hearts in ways they’ve never experienced. Tough? You bet your sweet chocolate eating, mocha chugging butt that’s spread so wide from sitting in a chair the only way you’re getting in those jeans is with a can of Crisco and a shoe horn.
These are the customers who don’t squeal. They don’t get ugly. They look you in the eye and quietly say “Thank you.” And they go out and tell their friends and family and neighbors where they got the cake. And all you’ve got to do is do the same thing the next time. And do it better, so they’ll come back again and again and again.
What kind of writer are you? What sort of things do you think about when you begin to write? Are you catering to the picky customer who has a set idea of what they want and God help you if you deviate? Are you writing for the person who has a vague sort of idea of what they want and then you give it your unique little twist? Or are you writing for the person who has no idea what they want? Do you write with no thought to the tried and true patterns, to the vague notions editors and publishers have about what people want to read? Do you write for the one person who gets to the last page, closes the book, looks you in the eye and says “Thank you.”