Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ogres are Like Onions

Onions are great in stews. They are great on sandwiches. They add kick to a salad when thinly sliced. They are a fabulous way to start many dishes: most of mine start with onion, garlic, and a little olive oil in a pan. And many things are like onions. Ogres are like onions. Plots are like onions. Character arcs are like onions. 

There is nothing like editing to make you appreciate an onion. You peel away the papery outer layer of spelling errors, obvious grammar mistakes, easy wtf-ery, where you have simply hit the wrong key in the heat of the moment. You have to hack off the uneatable bulb at the bottom, paring away unnecessary characters, description, and all those darlings. Now you are at the juicy outer layer of your novel. Sometimes, this bit is also papery and a little green near the bulb, so you must peel further. Obvious plot holes, questionable historical or real-world minutiae, like facts and such. 

Then you are down to the white, crisp inner workings. Here is the meat of all that is onion. Plot. Character. Why isn't she boo-hooing about her missing lover more? Does she throw aside her personal agenda to uphold the status quo, or does she tell the status quo to fuck off, her man needs her! Does this decision give her pause, or is this mission bigger than the two of them: if she can't stay true to herself and her ideals, how can she uphold the law of the land? Each layer you peel back you find more layers, more questions about the way the whole thing fits together.

Onions can be cooked to different consistencies. Semi-raw, they add crunch. In some soups, they almost disappear, just leaving behind their flavor. Caramelized, they are a different creature all together, hardly recognizeable as an onion. What you don't want is for people to find a papery-bit floating in your soup, or to come across a hunk of bulb in the salad. 

Actually.... now I think about it. Blog posts are like onions.....


  1. I like onions in ring form, breaded, and deep fried. Yum!

  2. OH yes.... I also enjoy those of the bloomin' variety!

  3. Mmm, onions. Most of my recipes start the same way as yours - if you don't smell that fabulous aroma, how do you know you're doing things right?

    Oh, wait, I was supposed to make a clever and insightful comment about writing and editing, wasn't I. *thinks* If editing (and blogging!) is an onion, maybe writing is cooking in general. Give a group of people a list of the same basic ingredients, and they can come up with some wildly different things. (Some dishes may taste better than others, but that's a different story!)