Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hidden salt

Good Morning America had a segment on hidden sodium in foods. That got me thinking about hiding things in our writing.

Food manufacturers & restaurants add sodium to the things we eat & drink for a couple of different reasons. One is for flavor, to enhance the taste of something that might otherwise be bland and uninteresting. The other is as a preservative. While too much sodium can lead to heart & kidney problems, too much "salt" in our writing can lead to reader indigestion.

What do I mean by salt in writing? It can be anything, really...
  • Historical snippets inserted into a novel set back in time to give it a feeling of authenticity
  • Describing things as your viewpoint character sees them (easy to overdo)
  • Adding in author worldview
  • Making note of details, such as what the characters are wearing, driving, reading, etc.
A little salt in writing goes a long way. The salt should never overpower the plot or characterization. It should always be well blended into the story, like a little salt in your muffins. Finding a glob of salt in a muffin is unpleasant. So, too, is an information dump in a story. Stirred in until it's thoroughly mixed, however, where it can't be removed without damaging the story, and your salt will bring out the flavor without harming your reader!

Happy writing!


Janet Tronstad said...

Great analogy, Hope. I've often thought that is one of the last things authors learn just before they are published. Getting just the right amount of 'extra' can be tough.

Hope Chastain said...

Ooh, thank you, Janet! That's very encouraging!
I'm still working on getting just the right amount of salt!