Cheese Love by Iliana Paul ‘11

After graduating from MHC 18 months ago, Iliana Paul now lives in Brooklyn with her high school sweetheart. She works days as a paralegal at a law firm, but afterwards and otherwise, she is an avid cook and eater. She plans to attend graduate school in the not-so-distant future, but for now, Ilana says, she is “just figuring things out day by day.”

The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it…and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…and it is all one.–M.F.K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me

“Do you want any more?” I asked tearing a bit of baguette and smearing on chevrot.

“No, I don’t want to have nightmares,” Chris replied matter-of-factly.

“What?”

“Don’t you know that eating cheese late at night will give you nightmares?”

“You’re ridiculous,” I said.

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Icebergs and Backstory – What holds your story up?

Aside

“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water. “

© Robert Davies | Dreamstime.com

At the Bread Loaf in Sicily conference which I’m recently back from, my instructor, the brilliant Lynn Freed, showed us a gorgeous image of an iceberg and mentioned Hemingway’s quote above. It’s an important topic for every fiction writer to remember.
When I’m working at the Red Oak Young Writers summer writing camps, I often find myself talking about the backstory. And, I’ve heard myself say more than once, “I don’t think you really know enough about this character yet. You need to know what got him/her to this point — what happened before? The reader doesn’t have to know it all, but you do.”
A wise writer friend of mine once recommended I journal as my character at a point where I was uncertain of something I needed to be certain of. That technique has helped me more than once when I needed to learn more to create a believable character/situation.
The best short stories and novels don’t overwhelm with the foundations, the past events and experiences that led to this moment in the character’s life; rather, the best authors are so clear on those unseen moments – the iceberg below the water – that the reader senses what he/she needs to know to wholeheartedly accept, and maybe even love, the character and the story.
Happy #writing all. Hope thinking about icebergs might help you and your work one of these days.