|Posted on October 7, 2015 at 7:35 PM|
I belong to an online chat site made up of like-minded food enthusiasts (don't call them foodies). Every year, they gather for a day-long, gluttonous picnic. The rules are few: 1) bring something edible and 2) eat, drink and be merry. It's a wonderful thing.
This year I didn't plan well and wasn't be able to attend, much to my dismay. I dropped off a seldom-used deep fryer for a friend but on my way out, two other friends convinced me that I should come back after my long list of chores were finished, regardless of having cooked. Just bring soda, they said. It didn't take much to wear me down. After all, these events are notorious for having an obscene amount of pork. To get an idea of the scope, picture that if anyone were to suggest that we have a pork-free picnic, you'd hear nothing but a chorus of crickets; then someone would collect said crickets, skewer and grill them, and serve them up with homemade nam phrik.
Guilt assuaged, I filled one 6" plate with savories and another with sweets. Just a taste. For the last few weeks, I have been trying to employ better eating habits. A lot less dessert, a lot less fried food, less junk altogether. I was now fully prepared for Hell and all its wrath. Bring it, you Red Bastard! I went two weeks without chocolate without breaking a sweat! But there was one cake —rich Devil's food with a fluffy, unctuous peanut butter filling—that completely undid me. I fell off the chocoriffic wagon.
Later that evening I tried to write, but was completely unable to concentrate. The flow of words were clogged by ruminations over chocolate cake. So I figured the hell with it; I'd comfort myself with additional cake and work twice as hard the next day. But the picnic was long over and there was nothing in the house but a packet of Swiss Miss. Now what? Where could I get some chocolate? Something had to give.
I had the brilliant idea of checking Yelp. They'd tell me where I could get my fix within one mile of my house. But the iPad decided to be a little bitch, refusing to connect to the internet. I wished I had a LifeAlert button so someone would ask me what I needed. "Yes, this is an emergency! Have you never had a craving go unsatisfied? The goddamn internet failed me, I can't think of anything to write, and for chrissake, we have no chocolate in the entire goddamn house!" Yes, that would go over beautifully.
Then it hit me: My current opener is a disquieting, angry, terse piece that I'm rather proud of, but I had an idea for a more suspenseful, ambiguous revision that would make readers wonder whether it's coming from the POV of the protagonist or antagonist. I could work on that since it's short and not fully connected to another chapter. And I could throw some fire behind my words, harnessed directly from my irate, chocolate-deprived madness.
I settled for the reduced-sugar bullshit Swiss Miss and banged out a creepier opener that [I hope!] will have readers itching to find out the cause of such potent fury, and which character is the one to watch out for. So maybe abstention and immersion worked out in my favor. But I don't recommend it.