07 July 2012

Adding 3 Flavors to Story and Strawberry Kiwi Vanilla Pudding Pie

“Mr. McGregore was a mean old man.”

As a creative writing teacher, students constantly write sentences similar to the one above.

It’s a perfectly good English sentence, everything is in its proper place, including the punctuation.

Despite its grammatically perfect structure, the sentence violates the first--the very first rule of telling tales--IT’S BORING.

The sentence contains absolutely no emotional, moral, psychological, spiritual, or ethical connection to the reader.

In the words of Truman Capote: “That’s not writing. That’s typing.”

When I get a sentence from a student like the one above, I have the student sit in front of me, and I begin asking questions like Joe Friday interrogating a hoodlum on the old Dragnet radio and television show.

Who is Mr. McGregore?
Why is he mean?
Did Mr. McGregore do something to you?
Do you have a problem with Mr. Gregore?
Did you TP Mr. McGregore’s home?
Why do you care that Mr. McGregore is mean?
Why do I care that Mr. McGregore is mean?
Maybe Mr. McGregore isn’t a mean old man. Maybe Mr. McGregore is just a lonely old man who’s tired of teenage punks like you running around the neighborhood ringing doorbells and putting cherry bombs in mailboxes.

The last question I ask is
Can you give me three--only three--elements in this sentence as to why Mr. McGregore is a mean old man and why the Hell I should even care?


When I cook I try to add at least three of my favorite ingredients to each recipe. I try to combine spices, herbs, vegetables, meats, and liquids that don’t necessarily go together, like rosemary, curry, and salmon.

I also like combining my favorite foods for tastes that are familiar and enjoyable.

Strawberries are my favorite fruit and vanilla pudding is my favorite pudding. I’m also quite fond of kiwi and vanilla wafers.
Strawberry Kiwi Vanilla Pudding PieAnd, I prefer to eat pie rather than cake any day.

Larry Mike’s Strawberry Kiwi Vanilla Pudding Pie

Use your favorite pie crust recipe or frozen pie crust

The following makes for two pies

4 cups strawberries, sliced and quartered
2 kiwi, peeled, sliced, and halved
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/4  tsp salt
1 box instant vanilla pudding

crush one cup strawberries and place in pan
add 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil
simmer for three minutes
strain juice from cooked strawberries into measuring cup and add water to make a full cup

combine remaining strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in the same pan
(you can also add the pulp from the boiled crushed strawberries or use the pulp later to mix a smooth)
slowly add juice, stirring until it boils and thickens

coat pie crust with powdered sugar
pour mixture into uncooked pie crust
cook in preheated oven to 375 F until crust is golden brown

mix instant vanilla pudding and stir until thick
pour vanilla pudding over strawberry mixture
place kiwi slices on top of vanilla pudding

for an extra kick, crumble enough vanilla wafers to cover the top of the pie

place pie in refrigerator and chill before serving

The first time I made this, I used frozen strawberries; however, the mixture was too watery and wouldn’t hold form. Using fresh strawberries is best to ensure the mixture thickens properly.


So, how does the writer fix the sentence, “Mr. McGregore was a mean old man.”?

By adding just three elements to the sentence, the writer can hook the reader and draw the reader to the second sentence, then the third sentence et cetera.

“Mr. McGregore opened his front door on the cold wet day to find a rain-soaked puppy looking up at him with its large pleading eyes, and the old man kicked the puppy across the street.”

The three elements added are
  • setting: cold wet day
  • emotional: rain-soaked puppy looking up at him with its large pleading eyes
  • action: kicked the puppy across the street
The sentence shows the reader the meanness of Mr. McGregore rather just merely tell the reader that he is mean.

The intelligent reader can evaluate for himself just how mean Mr. Gregore is rather than the writer merely making a statement of fact.

What’s interesting is that when I use this example in my class, I get two distinct reactions:
The girls say, “Oh, that’s so mean.”
The boys laugh and say, “That’s cool.”

I don’t know why the girls and boys react differently, but they do. I could figure it out if I really wanted to, but the point isn’t how the students reacted.

The point is that the students REACTED to the revised sentence whereas their collective reaction to the first version was dull eyes rolling back into their skulls.

Whether a strawberry pie or a sentence, I strive to achieve a reaction from either the eater or the reader.
When I write, I check each sentence to ensure it has at least three ingredients to which my reader can react. The worst reaction I've ever heard is, "Eh, it's okay."

For eating and reading, just like cooking and writing, are metaphors for each other.

In their own unique ways and purposes, a well made pie and a well told story provide expectation, flavor, nourishment, pleasure, and satisfaction.

Bon Apetite
Write Well

Larry Mike

03 July 2012

7 Virtues and 3 Meat Firecracker Hamburgers

Liz has to work on the Fourth until 8 PM, so we’re not really planning anything to celebrate our country’s Independence other than just watching the fireworks at the City Reservoir.

One purpose of holidays is to get us to think about certain events, evaluate our lives, set new goals, take assessment of old goals, and to be with family, friends, and loved ones.

Holidays are also the time in which men can suddenly cook, albeit outdoors on an open flame. Perhaps it’s the Call of the Wild in men, a harkening back to the time when Humanity actually sat around campfires cooking, communing, and recalling the deeds of the hunt, which were often over exaggerated.

As I continue further in NEVЯLAND, I’ve been evaluating the various traits of the characters, how each of a character’s traits play off the traits of other characters, help each character, hender each character, and move the story forward.

I also got to thinking about what, if any, holidays the Children would continue to celebrate after all the adults disappeared and the children were totally in control.

I think the Fourth of July would take on a whole new meaning for the Children--both a time of celebrating Independence, a time of mourning for the loss of their parents, and a time to reflect on those values the Children were learning from and admired in their parents.

I made a list of those traits all Parents should extol to their children. I’m working on a scene in which the Children celebrate the Fourth complete with fireworks and a reading of the list.

They also celebrate with a big community cookout in which the various factions put aside their differences--even if only for a few hours.


Larry Mike’s 3 Meat Firecracker Hamburgers

For every 1 lb of hamburger meat (80/20), add the following:
1 bratwurst (skinned)
1/3 lb hot sausage
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp red curry powder
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp malt vinegar
spot of wasabi

Use a food processor to blend until meats and spices are well mixed.
Shape into 1/2 inch patties and cook as desired.

I like to put my burger on an onion roll and top off with horseradish sauce or coarse mustard, fresh onion, tomato, lettuce, and Monterey Jack cheese.


My protagonist Laynie Price of NEVЯLAND undergoes several crises of character in which she has to reassess what she truly believes. Sometimes she fails miserably and feels as though she is not up to the task, a failure, a complete worthless human being.

Sometimes, while at the depth of her greatest despair, she pulls herself up and discovers a strength within her she never knew she possessed.

To keep to the straight and narrow on this character theme, I’ve listed virtues Laynie must work through. In fact, I’m using these for all the major characters--some with triumphant results and some with deadly ends.

7 Character Virtues (not in any particular order)

1. Morality--a definite sense of Right and Wrong; brought about through trial and error and inner/spiritual evaluation

2. Courage--facing fears; standing up to overwhelming odds in the face of certain death or public ridicule

3. Benevolence--the kindness of the Good Samaritan without prejudice

4. Respect--acceptance of others despite one’s personal beliefs and sense of morality; respect is not “approval”, but acknowledgment that all people have value

5. Honesty--Inner Truth in Action in all things

6. Honor--knowing that your actions do define you as a person, that others will judge you in what you say and, more importantly, by what you do

7. Loyalty--standing by others when they are at their lowest; not blindly standing by someone when you know he is wrong, but having the courage to stand up to a friend to help him work through a moral failing

Happy Independence Day!

Larry Mike