Monday, June 28, 2021

Baking a Novel

by Ane Mulligan @AneMulligan

When baking a novel, don't forget the important ingredient: experience. To draw your readers into your story, you want to create an experience for them. But that experience is filtered through your POV character. You know that already? Good. 


Think layer cake

But are you layering the senses into your fiction, so the reader hears, sees, smells, tastes, and feels it? It's actually a matter of "showing vs. telling" gone wild. 


If you're telling them what the character is experiencing, it's like this: Joan heard a siren in the distance. 


Showing them is like this: A siren wailed in the distance. 


Then you add another layer, taking it one step deeper: A siren wailed in the distance. In her rearview mirror, the blue flashing lights of an emergency vehicle drew closer. Joan’s heartbeat accelerated as she slowed her car and pulled over.


In the second one, you experience it with her. We've all heard a siren. I don't know about you, but the first thing I do is check my rearview mirror. I don't want to get in their way. 


So avoid the word "heard," which immediately makes it telling. The same with "saw." I could have said: Joan glanced in her rearview mirror and saw a flashing blue light.


But by showing you what she saw through her eyes makes for a better read. And readers can relate to it better than saying she saw.


Another one that is often forgotten is the sense of smell. I love to incorporate that one into my writing. If your character is taking a walk through the woods, you want your reader to smell the pines. If it's after a rain shower, the forest floor is damp and the woodsy scent of leaf mold rises with each footstep along the path.


When Claire enters Dee's 'n' Doughs in any of my Chapel Springs series books, you join her as the aroma of vanilla, yeast, and sugar wafts around her. From Chapel Springs Revival, the introduction to the bakery went like this:


Claire paused on the threshold for a moment, closed her eyes, and let the heavenly aroma of yeast, vanilla and almonds entice her. That indulgence alone would probably add another inch to her waistline.


Most everyone has stepped inside a bakery and smelled what I just described. Aromas trigger memories and that make your fiction relatable. And relatable makes it memorable.



When is a novel like a layer cake? @AneMulligan on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw Mary Martin in PETER PAN, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. Years later, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her websiteAmazon Author pageFacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest and The Write Conversation.


  1. Loved the comparison of writing to baking a cake! Great blog - thank you for sharing.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Kay. I used to do a lot of baking and when I started writing, it felt so much the same.

  3. What an excellent post, Ane! Thank you for sharing it.