Thursday, March 8, 2012

The ABC's of Middle Grade: N is for Nutmeg

Nutmeg. It's the forgotten cousin spice of the much more popular cinnamon. It's the spice that often sits in the spice rack watching other spices get shaken into all sorts of recipes. It's the spice with a subtle and interesting flavor. And when it comes to writing, everyone needs a little nutmeg.

Words like voice, pacing, characters, plot, and conflict get thrown around a lot in writing, much like cinnamon is a common go-to spice. Keeping readers engaged in our story through action is a way of shaking spice into our writing. But what adds subtle and interesting flavors to it? What techniques do we employ to ensure our writing has a little bit of nutmeg?

To me, nutmeg means a delicious way of writing that makes a story stand out from others, little quirks that make a reader giggle even in a serious scene, or twisting a storyline in an unforeseen manner. These name only a few sprinklings of nutmeg; there are endless other ways to nutmeg our writing. And something just as important as adding nutmeg is making sure we don't overuse the nutmeg. That, like too much of any spice, ruins the entire recipe.

So tell me, how do you sprinkle nutmeg into your stories while at the same time making sure not to add too much?

12 comments:

  1. Okay I wasn't sure how you were going to use nutmeg here. But you were very creative. I agree that it's those little touches likes plot twists, surprises, endearing moments between characters, that help a story stand out.

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  2. I find I get lost in the nutmeg sometimes. I love nutmeg too much, and I neglect other stuff.
    You're right, you can use too much of a good spice, but you do NOT want to be without it, either.
    I'm reading a book right now that has a great premise and the characters are good but there is no nutmeg. sigh.

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  3. I don't think I've started adding nutmeg to my wips yet. Maybe after a few more revision rounds? I do agree however that the nutmeg it what makes a book stand out for me and stay with me for months after.
    Oh and just like Kristen I LOVE NUTMEG. I often use it as a secret ingredient when I'm baking. :D

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  4. What a cool analogy. For me, I think nutmeg is those absolutely perfectly chosen words that just make you go "yes!" from time to time when you're reading.

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  5. I love your nutmeg analogy! You're correct, nutmeg is usually 1/8 or 1/4 a teaspoon in recipes, just enough to make a difference, but not enough to ruin everything.

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  6. What a great analogy, I agree with the other commenters! Too much is...well, too much!

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  7. Your post reminds me of one of my favourite books, A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry. The main character's name is Meg -- and nutmeg comes into the story in a small, but significant way that adds detail to the story.

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  8. Right now, I'm evaluating my current MS for too much/not enough nutmeg. It's tough.

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  9. Sorry I'm late commenting here, but I loved this post. "How do you nutmeg your story?" I absolutely love that, Barbara. I guess for me, the question I ask myself is, "Where is the fun in this scene?" there has to be something fun for me in every scene I write, even if it's not technically a funny scene, there needs to be something that gives me a little thrill and makes it worth it to me to write it. So asking myself "Where's the fun?" is how I do that. But, after reading this post, I might start asking myself, "How can I nutmeg this?"

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  10. Interesting choice for N! I love this nutmeg analogy. It's something I definitely strive for in my writing. I try to add "nutmeg" by utilizing lesser-known mythologies, giving fantasy characters diseases/disabilities/conditions, and--in general--simply taking something typical and changing an aspect or two about it into something atypical so it's both familiar yet not.

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  11. Brilliant analogy!! Just like when I attempt baking, I add way too much nutmeg in the beginning. Fortunately, my stories and books don't suffer like my muffins and breads because I can remove book nutmeg! I guess I "over spice" in the beginning so that I have more options as I move along (I do not outline, I just write and rewrite and rewrite).

    I am very impressed with this post! I just love how you think... Perhaps you could publish your insightful posts in an A-Z book!!!

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  12. HiBarbra, Nutmegs are the main export crop in my country-Grenada;also is our national emblem.I am very happy to see the word nutmeg being appreciated in such creative ways.


    Jesma Archibald.

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Comments. Yay! They're almost as good as chocolate. Almost.