My mother said that. She was relating a story about how my aunt had dropped off a large platter of honey buns for my brother and she said that she wouldn’t let them in the house. “They’re food porn.” She said. I think that’s terrific. Yeah, they’ll satisfy the hunger, but they leave you feeling somehow diminished, and even a little dirty afterwards. I can’t say that I disagree. I’m not a compulsive honey bun consumer. Once and awhile when I’m home alone and feeling lazy, I’ll get one and settle down on the couch and enjoy it, but it’s pretty rare.
Have you been writing honey buns? After I heard my mother’s description I began to ponder what else could be considered a honey bun? Let’s break down what a honey bun is and then perhaps this highly elongated metaphor will yield some insight.
A honey bun is the most basic ingredients of appetite satisfaction. It is a base fat (lard or shortening) sugar and a protein coagulant (eggs). In the ‘homespun’ kitchen’s of New England I’m sure that there’s a healthy dose of love and vanilla in there, but for 99.99% of America’s honey buns, the basic ingredients are industrial egg powder, corn syrup, and hydrogenated vegetable grease, all lovingly made by huge extrusion mechanisms. It’s mass produced fulfillment of the worst kind. What is a ‘honey bun’ story then? Well, like any other story it will contain the basic elements of narrative construction: setting, characters, plot, but there the ‘honey bun’ story stops. There will be no sprinkling of ‘narrative almonds’ on top in the form of a highly conceived and original setting. Gone is the splash of vanilla in the form of characters whose motivations are well devised and complex. You can forget a touch of orange peel in the glaze that is a riveting and compelling plot. A honey bun story happens when we have an idea and we fail to give it the time and effort to make it an original idea. There are no concepts, no notions of such stunning originality that they can’t be made mundane by sloppy writing.
I wanted to contrive some sort of checklist that you could use to make sure you are not producing literary honey buns. These are a few I’ve come up with, but I want to encourage anyone to add to this list for themselves. Honestly I believe you could apply a version of it to any number of creative endeavors.
1: There are a thousand stories set in this place already. Why is mine different?
2: My John/Jane Doe character(s) are motivated by hunger, thirst, and a need for shelter, but what really interesting thing is making them tick?
3: The cat is in the tree and my character(s) need to get it down. What method of getting at said cat has never been done before? or if done, never like this?
I hope this is helpful.
A note on my dying friend: There is a new health issue with my longtime writing partner. After a near terminal incident about a month and a half ago, I take them all seriously. I am of course speaking of my ancient IBM laptop. It’s obese, and rude, but it’s mine. We had to have major brain surgery about six weeks back and I’m an amateur surgeon at best, but it pulled through. As a result of that procedure I had to pull down much of its immune system resulting in an infection that caused everyone in my email address book to receive ads for discount Viagra™ with a “personal” message from me. On a happy note that little email blast did get me in touch with some old friends I hadn’t heard from in a long time, and that was nice. A few weeks ago the space bar began to require a little finesse and now, thanks to some of the software fixes I was forced to patch in, my copy of Microsoft Word© now informs me that it is not a “genuine” copy and can’t work for me anymore. Of course this is ludicrous. It is a perfectly legitimate piece of software and I refuse to pay for therapy so that it can feel better about itself. I have since discovered a way to bypass its unfortunate lack of obsequiousness. These little tics and hiccups are part of my machine’s character. They also insure that no-one on earth other than myself could ever use it, and that’s security you just can’t pay for. So if you ever get a message from me telling you that, “I’ve found the secret for cheap Viagra™ !!!” you just know that somewhere, right then, my computer is plugging along and loving me.
That is the science of Honey Buns.
Next up- Cream Cheese: The romantic comedy of food!
Andrew C. Porter