…get one thing wrong, and the whole thing falls into disaster.
Of course, that statement is subjective. What if that one thing is minor? Or what if it looks a total disaster, but still tastes really good? Well, it’s all relative to what the reader can ignore, and what he can’t. And the best way to make the reader ignore those mistakes is to strike a good balance among all the ingredients that go into a story.
But, how do you do that?
First, you need to know the ingredients, or the elements that make up a story. Once you have everything you need, you can go about measuring them – but instead of using measuring cups and spoons, you need a balance scale. And it’s probably the most complex balance scale your imagination can conjure up. Take each element, dole them out onto the scale such that everything stays in balance, then mix and bake at 350 degrees. :)
Using the balance scale gives the writer direction without telling him what to do. I.E., without giving him a formula to follow. If your story calls for major amounts of plot twists, then include them. Just don’t forget to add enough characterization, pacing, research, etc. such that the story is still in balance. Otherwise your story soufflé is going to come out lopsided.
Okay, you say. But how do you know if your story is in balance?
That’s where objectivity comes in. I know, I know. I’ve gone on about this before, but it’s such an important concept to me that it’s in everything I do related to writing. This is no different. Critique groups are wonderful for balance-checking, too. Especially well-rounded groups where everyone has different strengths. A fresh pair of eyes can do wonders.
Once you’ve measured, mixed, and baked, then you can set your story aside to cool. When you come back to “taste” it, it’ll be easier to see if the mixture is right, or if something is off. Figuring out what is off, however, can be really, really hard, and sometimes requires an experienced palate. Use your critique groups to help out there.
Sorry about all the baking analogies. In case the guitar cake wasn’t a dead giveaway, I’m a big lover of baking, and this is how my brain processes things. If you're not a baker, my apologies. :)