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My Recipe for Chicken Soup
by Linda C. Apple
Chicken Soup for the Soul got its name when Jack Canfield remembered how his grandmother would give him chicken soup when he was sick. She told him it would cure anything. And since the inspiration for this book was to heal the soul, the title was a perfect illustration of this goal.
Being an inspirational writer, this appealed to me. Over the years I’ve submitted 13 stories to this publication and they’ve published 9—not a bad track record. People have asked me what’s my secret.
I don’t have a secret, but I do have a recipe. It only has six ingredients. Here it is:
1 – Scene
5 – Senses
Emotion (use sparingly)
Dialogue (use carefully to keep from changing the facts)
Internalization (add to taste)
A simple lesson or epiphany (not too strong)
Mix these ingredients into a story and you will have a winning chicken soup story. Let’s take a closer look at these ingredients
- Scene – A scene is the focal point of the story. Since the word count is limited, think “snap-shot” rather than movie. Cut every word, every description, and unnecessary history. Keep the reader in the immediate presence. Think of viewing your story through a cardboard tube instead of magnifying glasses.
- Senses – Go into your “mental” attic and blow the dust off your “memory” chest. Inside you will find five keys to unlocking your readers’ minds and their own memories will fill in all the extra words that you do not have room for. Even better they will connect with you and your story.
Use the senses to paint a word picture full of delicious visual images. Tell us about the evening air perfumed with honeysuckle, the tree frogs singing for rain, the hot cinnamon bread smeared with cream butter. Yum!
- Emotions – If our story doesn’t move us, it won’t move our reader. However, it isn’t enough to write, “I was so happy.” In the writing world that is called “telling.” Writers must “show,” not tell. With every emotion there is a physical response. Think about a happy person’s face, their physical movements, their voice inflection. Think of how you feel inside when you are happy. Write that, not the word, happy.
- Dialogue – This is where many nonfiction “purist” get hung up. No one can remember word-for-word what was said a year ago. Heck, I can’t remember word-for-word what I said two hours ago. But we all talk. We converse over dinner, at parties, at work. Adding dialogue to our stories brings the reader into the story and helps them to connect—there’s that important word again—but that is exactly what we want to do with our reader. The crucial thing to remember is that dialogue should not change the facts or the integrity of the story.
Another good use of dialogue is to give added facts. Packaged in dialogue, added information doesn’t bog the story down.
- Internalization – We have an average of 60,000 thoughts a day. Why not write a few down. Actually, writing your “self-talk” gives your article a more intimate feel. It is also a great way to add humor, insight, and your opinion.
- Simple Lesson – This is your gift to your readers. It is what will inspire them, give them hope, courage, give them pause to smile, and more passionate about life. Just like Jack’s grandmother’s chicken soup, your story should be comforting and healing.
Whatever you offer, a moral of the story, a realization, or an observation, it should never be glaring or preachy. Don’t poke your reader in the chest with the long finger of your words to drive your point home. Inspire them by your experience and how you came through it.
When you’ve finished your story go to the Chicken Soup for the Soul website (www.chickensoup.com) and submit. You will only hear from them if they are considering your story and a second time to inform you that they’ve either decided against it or are going to publish it.
Don’t be discourage if they do not publish you right away! Keep submitting in the spirit of Jack and Mark. After all, they submitted their idea for this book to 220 publishers. Every major publisher in New York. The lesson here? Persevere!
© Copyright 2009, Linda C. Apple
Linda Apple is an inspirational writer and motivational speaker. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas with her husband, Neal, and near their five children, three children-in-loves, and six grandchildren. Her current work in progress is a parenting book titled, NOW WHAT DO I DO? Help For When Teenagers Become Teenstrangers. Please visit her website: www.lindacapple.com. Learn how easy it is to write those Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort stories in Inspire! Writing from the Soul.
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