Monday, May 23, 2011

Story Notes - Scrumdiddle and A "Great" Cook

I said that I thought yesterday's story, "Scrumdiddle," was one of the first three I'd ever written. I'm now thinking that's not true. This might have been number four or five, written after Clarion, for a college class.

In college, of course, we weren't supposed to write science fiction or fantasy or mystery or romance. We were supposed to write real life. So I retold one of the many stories I'd heard about my great grandmother (who was known to everyone in my generation as "Great").

Great was a wonderful cook and baker, who ran restaurants at various times in her life (as did Gramma and my Uncle). She started her career as a cook at three years old, standing on a box washing dishes in a lumber camp. Her mother soon turned her cook tent into a boarding house, and cooking was the way to make a living for the family ever since.

Great once did have a problem with one of her competitors copying her specials every day, and she did put an end to it by making up the word "Scrumdiddle" and offering it as a special. According to family legend, that was an end to it.

It seemed like a ripe incident to learn how to expand into a full plot. After all, it was really only a beginning, wasn't it? A first foray in the battle. How did making up a special actually stymie the competition? Why didn't he just copy that too?

So that was my premise.

For the characters, I had to move away from reality. Great was a tiny, feisty woman with a wicked sense of humor, but I only know that from what people said about her. I never really knew her. I had nothing to capture except for shadows of wisps of stories -- Great once did this, or once did that. I was too young to interpret what I knew into something rounded.

So I simply used what I knew as a springboard, and wrote what was within my skills.

Great has influenced, both directly and indirectly, a lot of things I've written, if not everything I've written. She was the great storyteller of the family, which was handed down, a great cook, which was handed down, and had quite a sense of humor, which was not only handed down, but I suspect was something that came to this puritan family mainly from her.

This story is not what I would call a tribute to her, but she is definitely the most interesting thing about it.

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