***The following is hypothetical.
Setting: About the restaurant sit small rectangular tables, in neat little rows, some oblique to one another, creating an eclectic feel. Stark white cloths cover each, a perfect backdrop for silver cutlery and crystal water goblets. Wine glasses will come later.
A small candle glows in a glass votive, in the center of each, aside a miniature cut-glass vase, holding a few sprigs of green and fresh flowers. The palette is set for the dinner you’re about to enjoy.
A professionally-appointed waiter arrives, dressed in black pants, vest, tie, while underneath he sports a crisp white shirt. Draped over his arm is a white linen towel. He’ll deliver your total dining experience.
It goes like this: First is appetizer, a mini-plate of any of an assortment of items designed to sharpen (or whet) the appetite: calamari, stuffed mushrooms (tho’ too filling for some), antipasto of cheeses, olives, prosciutto (in Italian eateries)…
What’s this gourmet meal in a fine-dining establishment like? A written piece. Here’s how: The opening sentence (like the appetizer) must immediately hook the reader, causing him to salivate…want more…pursue. If it doesn’t, he’ll never discover the brilliant dialogue, the insightful observations you, as author, wish to share.
This part of the meal is critical but relatively short, true to the adage of “Less is more.” Think escargots (little French snails in buttery-garlic sauce, pictured to the right.)
Next, is the entrée or main course….the major component of the meal. A nice filet mignon, glazed duck en croute, with accompanying vegetables and starch (one pays for those components separately–a la carte– in European restaurants, while they’re included as ‘one’ in an American dining experience.) This is literally what you’ve come to the restaurant for….their crowning achievement (duck in pastry pocket–‘croute’–is to the right.)
The equal in written form? The body of the work…the details…the supporting argument…all the sentences that go about to sustain your opening premise. Here, you’ll need assert real self-discipline, for no matter how original or howlingly-funny you believe a line, you must excise it, if it doesn’t support your theme (file it away for future use when it supports another theme or create the theme that will capitalize on it.)
Aside from the main course, everything else is tease or after-glow.
At the end of your written piece comes dessert, the finale, the piece de resistance. Here, you never want to confuse but leave your reader reeling in the assurance: “You’ve made your point (whatever you suggested it would be in the opening salvo.) As such, it’s the crème brulee, the chocolate mousse, the flan aux fruits of your piece (latter is pictured.)
I often told my students in journalism class: “When you‘re ‘here,’….slam home your point.” “Let there be no confusion as to the message you’re delivering.” If you’re confused here, your reader will be more so.
So, nicely summed-up: A good written piece is like a wonderfully-orchestrated dinner, comprised of appetizer (opening sentences), supporting details (the body of your work) and dessert (your closing points). It should leave the reader fully satisfied, with the “Ahhhh effect.”
In an earlier day, you might have lit a cigarette, afterward.
And just like the signs that say “Life is short: Have dessert first,” a good writer sometimes changes the format for artistic effect, since writing is ever about variety. As such, she might deliver dessert first and then in flashback mode, go back and fill in details to support.
Finally, know there’s no right or wrong way to write to prove a point (I myself could rewrite each of these blog posts 10 different ways,) so when you believe you’re finished, say: “It’s good enough,” avoiding an obsessive-compulsive drive to rewrite something that’s perfectly good, over and over.
Writing is hard (if done right). But it’s exciting and rewarding, for the writer has a tool by which he can reach out to others, help them on life’s journey, make them laugh or cry, or teach them something…The scope is limitless.
Now, you can begin here, on your own journey as writer, by commenting (scroll to section below). I promise: I’ll appreciate your words. Tell me “What’s the hardest thing you find about writing?”