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How to cook up a novel

Updated on July 9, 2011

A Recipe for a novel

This recipe is for the most delicious, tastiest novel this century.  You will certainly have all your dinner guests licking their lips, salivating and begging for more.  Of course, you need to know who you are cooking up this delightful concoction for.  If it’s only for you to eat, you can play around with the ingredients to your heart’s content, experiment a little, go into the dark side and wallow in there for a while, but if it is for many guests then you probably need to stick to the recipe a little more.  Don’t deviate too much, otherwise the flavor might change and the aroma might be too pungent.  The tastiest novel is not so much about the style or the perfect use of metaphor or beautiful descriptions of the way the clock ticks slowly, but about the story.  And what makes a good story?  Why, the plot and the characters of course.

 Ingredients (This is what you need to shove into that chipped glass mixing bowl of yours!)

  • A huge dilemma/crisis/problem/conflict, the bigger the better.  Not too convoluted, as the dinner guest might lose interest as the twists and turns require too much concentration and your guest gets lost and gives up.  The dilemma has to be real enough to grab the guest so that they can connect with it, and not too far-out that they can’t identify with it at all that they lose interest.  You’ll have to taste little bits every now and then to ensure you have just the right amount.  This is the tricky bit.  The plot has to unravel sequentially.  Remember, your dinner guest is there to eat up your novel, not develop a stress migraine.  You should stick to the basic format of a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • A good setting.  If you think of anyone from a book or your life, they’re always in a context.  They always come with a setting, a certain place and time, plus a whole lot of baggage clustered around them.  Any character in your novel must have some sort of a backdrop.  This makes them more believable.  Rather than relying on interior monologues and streams of consciousness which could alter the flavor of your dish considerably, and slow it down somewhat, it’s often more effective simply to subtly slip in a telling detail about a the place where the character’s hanging around, and show how they interact with their environment.
  • A few sub-plots to build up intrigue and make your dinner guest cry out in ecstasy or horror.  Either way, you want to get a reaction from them.  You want them to feel it, that cornucopia of tastes, sensations.  Little interactions and conflicts between some of your other characters, their interactions with the protagonist.  This helps make it all the more real.  Nobody has a week without any kind of conflict at all, however minor.  Life is all about solving conflicts.
  • A point of view to maneuver your guest into the world you have created.  Your guests are handing over all their sensory faculties to you.  You have absolute control of them, and everything they experience is governed by what you choose to show or tell them.  And to do this well, you have to decide whether you are going to use a first person, second person, third person, or multiple persons.   Whichever point of view you decide with, you need to stick with.  Swapping viewpoints is like hopping from red, to white, sweet wine, to dry, in one meal.  You risk losing your guest, making them so inebriated that they no longer know if they are Arthur or Martha.
  • A few great characters and a mouth-watering protagonist.  Without character, there can be no novel, no matter how great the plot.  The best protagonist is someone we can identify with for the duration of the meal.  What makes a character interesting is not how the world impacts on them, but how they impact on the world.  This is how the character develops.  Only describing things that happen to your characters make them one-dimensional.    Making your characters do and say things in an engaging way, giving them reasons, motivations and conflicts is what makes them three-dimensional and more believable.  You want your dinner guests to talk about your characters at other dinner parties.
  •  Seasonings, add at your discretion, but do add some otherwise your recipe might turn out bland and leave your guests with no taste in their mouths.  Some spice is always good, a little bit of sex to get the guests’ hormones going, action to give them a bit of an adrenalin rush; it tends to make the meat tenderer and easier to chew on.  Salt and pepper are always essential.  Good realistic dialogue, descriptions.  A dash of herbs to add some color, maybe a slightly eccentric character with strange foibles.  A bit of chili which could be suspense, humor or both.

Method of preparation (Knowing the order in which you mix the ingredients)
Prepare your chipped glass mixing bowl, your work space where you’ll mix your ingredients.  First come up with the problem, the dilemma.  Then add in the setting.  Come up with some interesting characters.  Write some character sketches first, know how they will think and act in different situations.  It is only when you know how your character is expected to act, that you can introduce the element of surprise which definitely adds to the flavor of this recipe.  Once you have your characters, add in the sub-plots and mix.  Introduce the point of view and leave your concoction to stand for a while. 

Transfer your concoction to a big black cauldron, and put it onto a slow heat.  Stir carefully while cooking the ingredients, and slowly add in the seasoning, stirring after each type of seasoning is added.  Stay vigilant and engaged, watching carefully that the liquid doesn’t evaporate so that your concoction is dried out and gets caught and burned out on the bottom.  Do not let yourself get distracted from the novel you are cooking up. 

Garnish and serve creatively on your best plates.  The presentation is important, so check the spellings, punctuation, edit, revise and edit again.  Your dinner guests will be back for more if you have taken care of their needs, which is flavor and presentation.  You want them to leave satisfied, so that they tell other potential guests about the wonderful meal they had with you.




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    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Pinkhawk, you need to try my awesome cheescake recipe as well hahaha

    • pinkhawk profile image


      8 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

      ...this makes me hungry! haha!I think, I really need to learn how to cook...thank you for this recipe ma'am!:)

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Aussieteacher!

    • Aussieteacher profile image


      8 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

      What a great hub. Well done.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks ladies!

      Emievil, I make myself hungry!

    • emievil profile image


      8 years ago from Philippines

      Great hub Cindy. You're definitely making me hungry for more :).

    • 2patricias profile image


      8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Delicious advice and served up in such at attractive manner.

      We really like this Hub and have rated it UP.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      We definitely learn from others, Kj8!

    • kj8 profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for the advice, I love finding out how other people go about writing.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Oneputt, thanks for the compliment!

      Paradise, you make me blush.

      Enelle, glad you enjoyed it and found it helpful

      Sagebrush, yeah it's all in the way you say things, eh?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Fun the way you describe the process!

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 

      8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Well crafted, interesting hub with great advice! Very enjoyable read :D

    • Paradise7 profile image


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Terrific hub, and I bookmarked it, too!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      A great hub should always make one's personal bookmark click. This is one of those. Thanks!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Pam, here's a drink of wine to go with the recipe! Cheers!

      Ta muchly De Greek!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Clever, well done :-)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Cinyvine, I think your recipe should work as you didn't seem to leave our any ingredients for a great story. Nice hub. Thanks. for the great advice.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Hello Hello, g'day to you!

      Tony mac, as long as you don't get the toil and trouble with the bubble lol.

      Suzie, what the hell is that bowl doing getting mouldy in the closet? Get it out now!

      Alekhouse, I'll email you some dialogue tips, okay?

      Ralwus, put that link here.

      Hypno, spice up that novel and serve it!

      Creativeone, glad you enjoyed my spicy recipe!

      Parrster, much better than junk food, you're right! Lol

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 

      8 years ago from Australia

      Thanks, that was exceptional, flavoursome and filling. Beats junk food any time.

      I'm book marking this for my current and future recipes.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you cindy, dear heart for a most delicious undertaking of a spicy novel hub. Appreciate your infornmation and advice. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • CMHypno profile image


      8 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Great novel recipe cindyvine, and you seem to have been cooking up a storm recently. My novel has been bubbling away on the hob for too long - I need to throw in some herbs and bring it to the boil!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      alekhouse, there is a guy here that has much to say on that subject. I'll get you his link.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      This is really good and helpful, but you left out one thing: how to deal with dialogue. I'm writing fiction for the first time and am having a little difficulty with the dialogue. Any genertal suggestions so it won't seem contrived, even though it is. :=) Thanks, Cindy

    • suziecat7 profile image


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Really enjoyed this. My bowl is getting moldy in the closet.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Into my slowly bubbling pot this one goes! Wonderful and useable advice - thanks.

      Love and peace


    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Good information. Thank you.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Charlie, you are my main man! I think my bowl is a little warped as well.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My bowl is not only chipped, it is cracked. But you have done well my friend. xox Charlie


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