Monday, March 15, 2010

Writing Advice from a Dog and Chocolate Cherry Macaroon Torte


Would you take writing advice from a dog? I would -- especially the canine narrator of The Art of Racing in the Rain, the novel by Garth Stein that I mentioned in an earlier post.

Enzo, the dog, not only "speaks" of the art of racing, he has opinions about the art of narrative and hero.

Enzo says: I've always found great pleasure in the narrative tease. But then, I'm a dramatist. For me, a good story is all about setting up expectations and delivering on them in an exciting and surprising way. (p.59)

Later, speaking of racecar drivers, his comments also could apply to the characters in our stories: The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles -- preferably of his own making -- in order to triumph. A hero without a flaw is of no interest to an audience or to the universe, which, after all, is based on conflict and opposition, the irresistible force meeting the unmovable object. (p.135)

When we talked about this in the Advanced Life Story Writing Group, Louise pointed out that the hero cannot be so flawed as to be unlikeable. She's right. The hero must somehow still be likable.


Select a favorite book, article or short story. Apply Enzo's "wisdom" (see above) and write a review of your selection. Are expectations set up and met in unexpected ways? Is the hero likable, does he triumph? Is the hero flawed in some way? Do you like the hero more or less for having flaws?

Write for ten minutes. Don't worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar or staying on the subject. Later, revisit and revise.


Depending on your tastes, you may find the following recipe flawed -- or not. It contains chocolate (we know we agree on that one). But the recipe also includes coconut and cherries. When I wrote about the coconut M&Ms, I found you have strong opinions about coconut -- for and against. And from My Young Advisor's reaction to anything cherry, there must be strong opinions about that ingredient also. As for me -- I think it all sounds great.

This recipe came from (Thanks for the link to Substitute your own preferred brands.

"O My Ganache" Cherry Macaroon Torte

1 roll (16.5 oz.) Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookies
1-1/4 cups whipping cream
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup Fisher Chef's Naturals Blanched Slivered Almonds
1 cup flaked coconut
1 jar (12 oz.) Smucker's Cherry Preserves(1 cup)
1 cup sweetened dried cherries
1 tablespoon orange juice (I probably would substitute some other liquid.)

1. Let cookie dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350°F. In 1-quart saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of the whipping cream over low heat just until hot but not boiling; remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips until smooth. Set aside.

2. In 8-inch skillet, cook almonds over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes. Coarsely chop almonds.

3. In medium bowl, break up cookie dough. Mix in coconut with wooden spoon until well blended. Press dough evenly in bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the almonds; lightly press into dough. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

4. Meanwhile, in blender or food processor, place preserves, cherries and orange juice. Cover; process with on-and-off pulses until blended. Set aside.

5. Spread cherry mixture over crust to within 1/2 inch of edge. Stir chocolate mixture with wire whisk; pour over cherry mixture, spreading to cover cherry mixture. Sprinkle with remaining almonds. Freeze 30 minutes until chocolate is firm.

6. Meanwhile, in small bowl, beat remaining 3/4 cup whipping cream with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Run sharp knife around edge of torte to loosen. Remove side of pan. To serve, cut into 12 wedges. Top each serving with dollop of whipped cream. Store covered in refrigerator. 12 servings.

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