I’m writing a novella. At first it was going to be a short story about a young woman who takes a farm internship in order to escape the mess that is her work- and love-life. Now it is ostensibly a novella about a young woman who takes a farm internship to escape said mess. And she meets a hot farmboy and falls inconveniently in love, of course, because this is a romantic comedy.
The problem is this: instead of the plot thickening nicely, like a stew, it is thinning into broth because I lack that crucial ingredient: conflict.
Well, there is some conflict, I guess. That would be “the mess that is her work- and love-life.” But that seems like backstory to me. Plotting it out in a Hero’s Journey kind of way, the first chapter includes the “Call to Adventure.” Great. But is it compelling? What, exactly, is my heroine’s quest? She’s not looking for love, though she finds it. She’s looking to escape and to regroup her resources, inner and outer.
And this brings me to theme. What is the lesson here? You can’t solve your problems by running from them? Or the opposite: sometimes you have to give up everything and start over from scratch?
I suppose a really smart writer would figure this out before typing that first “once upon a time” sentence. So what? I didn’t. Now I have to put my story on a back burner to stay warm while I go looking for thickeners, and that’s okay. It’s good weather for stew.
Since it is deer hunting season, how about venison stew? Even if you don’t don blaze orange and head out into the woods with your trusty rifle, you can buy venison from a deer farmer like Applegate Deer Farm in Newfield, Maine. You can also substitute beef. Or make it vegetarian with nice, chunky, dark mushrooms instead of meat and vegetable bouillon instead of the beef cubes. Enjoy!
Here is a recipe for The Plot Thickens Venison Stew
2 lbs venison cubes
1 tsp. butter or lard
1 quart hot water
2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup diced turnips
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced parsnips (or more…I like parsnips!)
1 cup diced celery
1 diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1 tbs. salt
2 beef bouillon cubes
Seasoned flour: 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp paprika
Roll meat in seasoned flour. Brown in hot fat in large pot. Cover with hot water. Simmer 2 hours on stove. Add remaining ingredients. Cook until veggies are tender, about 30 minutes.
Thicken by whisking together in a bowl 4 tbs. flour and 2 cups hot liquid from stew until no lumps (caution, very hot liquid!). Add back to stew pot. Delicious, thick, hearty soup. That was easy. Now, about that novella…