blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Dinner with friends at a foodie-worthy restaurant. What could be better?
The lessons it taught about creating a memorable reading experience.
While visiting Nashville recently, two friends and I were privileged to enjoy what might well be our most memorable restaurant meal. That’s saying a lot, considering the foodie expertise of my knowledgeable friends. One had done her research in advance of the meal. She chose a restaurant with an intriguing menu and excellent reputation.
We started with grilled cucumbers in benne tahini flavored with tarragon and pomegranate. Yes. That’s what I thought, too. Grilled cucumbers? The flavor was exceptional. The melon salad with barrel-aged feta, lime, and basil offered us another round of oohs and aahs.
After that first course, our server cleared the plates, wiped down the table, and laid out fresh silverware for us. Soundlessly.
With elegant, smooth, slow movements, the server placed each piece of silverware on the dark wood table without making a sound. It was as if the clink of metal on wood would disturb our dining experience. He refilled our water glasses almost invisibly. He drew no attention to himself but still anticipated our every need. When unaware we were watching, the server prepared a nearby table in anticipation of diners who had not yet arrived. He used the same elegant, slow movements he’d used serving an occupied table. The integrity of his attitude toward his role–the care he took, his attention to detail–impressed. It enhanced our dining experience even more than the delectable entrees and the stunning beauty of the roasted plum sorbet served in a matte black bowl at the end of the exceptional meal.
What can authors do to enhance the reading experience for their readers? How can authors create a memorable reading experience?
Pay attention to detail.
Accurate historical details rather than cut-and-paste assumptions. Choosing each word carefully, so it doesn’t clink against the story background on which it’s laid. Caring about the depth of flavor in the writing. Not settling for “good enough” but striving for excellence.
Our memorable meal at the restaurant was marked by the absence of salt and pepper shakers. The assumption–an accurate one–was that the chef’s skill guaranteed that the meal was seasoned so well in the kitchen it would need no extra grain of salt or pepper. The food balanced beautifully on the head of a flavor pin.
A skilled writer does the same balance dance with words, word pictures, subplots, casts of characters, and takeaway points. Authors create memorable reading experiences when they season well, but judiciously. They learn the art of leaving out the excess and incorporating only necessary enhancements.
Meet readers’ needs without drawing attention to the author.
Just as our server met our needs without drawing attention to himself–Thank you, Scott!–whether writing fiction or nonfiction, an author makes the literary “meal” most satisfying without author intrusion. The focus remains on the meal, the friends or family gathered around the table, and the connection with the storytelling, not on the writer placing it before them.
Work with integrity whether anyone’s watching or not.
Will millions read your work? Thousands? One? What an impression it will make if your devotion to integrity in all writing disciplines–and in life–remains the same no matter who’s watching.
Can you mark a particular meal as a memorable dining experience? What made it exceptional? What can that teach you about creating a positive reading experience?
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