Breakfast Casserole and Fillers in Novels

By Traci Tyne Hilton

I had a houseful of family today, and I needed to feed them. I went with brunch—the perfect company food, for a million reasons.

  1. Buffet (perfect for a crowd in a small house. Sit wherever you want!)
  2. Donuts! (I mean really, what other meal are you allowed to serve donuts?)
  3. Make ahead main dish. (Mmmm breakfast casserole!)

The variations on breakfast casserole are endless. Every dish starts the same: Bread, milk, eggs. But from there you can do sweets or savories, ham, sausage or bacon, with veggies or with fruit. Basically, whatever you have on hand!

I went with sour cream, sausage and roasted bell pepper (with a dash of Worcestershire and garlic salt.)

Sausage, roasted peppers, eggs and toast would be another great way to serve those same ingredients, but the reason you make a breakfast casserole is because you don’t have enough of those things to feed everybody. Breakfast casserole uses cheap white bread to stretch the yummy ingredients farther. This is a great trick when feeding a crowd, but a terrible way to eat on a daily basis.

And it is a terrible way to create a book.

Once on a writer’s forum someone asked, “What do you all fill those pages between the actions with?” There was sense of panic to the question. The writer desperately wanted to make a whole novel out of a short story. He wanted to make a meal out of a snack. He wanted to know the secret filler we all used to make our novels stretch.

There isn’t one.

You either have enough action for a story, or you don’t.

If you love your story to death, and you don’t want to see it end up as a short story instead of a novel, I have three tricks for you. They aren’t filler. They aren’t for stretching your story the way a loaf of white bread stretches a breakfast casserole. They are good, solid tips for creating a novel length piece of fiction.

  1. Add another point of view. It’s a painless way to give your readers more of your story world and to add dimension to your tale. Dig through your character notes and figure out who you find the most compelling and who has the most at stake in the tale.
  2. Make life harder for your main character. I don’t know what genre you are writing, but if the only hard time your character is having has to do with the main plot line, and then you have plenty of room to explore. Most folks have family life, work life (or finding work life,) school, church, or neighborhood life that intersects and distracts from the main goal. Find ways that these other aspects of your main character’s life can make achieving her main goal harder. Your book will be both longer and more interesting.
  3. Dig into that deep POV! I am pretty sure that anyone writing their fist novel can give “more.” Tell us more about what your main character is thinking, feeling, smelling, tasting, and seeing as she (or he) makes her (or his) way through life. Two or three sentences per page of observation and experience can both deepen, and lengthen a book!

 

Want to know what tortures I put my main character through? Then check out Good, Clean, Murder: A Plain Jane Mystery, available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords!

About Traci

DSC_3217Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery Series, and one of the authors in the The Tangle Saga series of science fiction novellas. She was the Mystery/Suspense Category winner for the 2012 Christian Writers of the West Phoenix Rattler Contest, a finalist for Speculative Fiction in the same contest, and has a Drammy from the Portland Civic Theatre Guild. Traci serves as the Vice President of the Portland chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association.

Traci earned a degree in History from PortlandStateUniversity and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, their two daughters, and their dog, Dr. Watson.

More of Traci’s work can be found at http://www.tracihilton.com

Award Winning Mystery from Best Selling Author Traci Tyne Hilton!

Living on her own for her first time, Bible school student Jane cleans houses to make ends meet. But being independent brings big GoodCleanMurder3trials, like falling for a handsome professor, dealing with an obnoxious roommate, and then there’s the dead bodies…

Who knew being housekeeper to wealthy owners of a Roly Burger franchise would mean sweeping up clues to their death, while ministering to the needs of their heirs?

This is one big mess that Jane is intent on cleaning up before things get even worse.

 

BONUS!

 

My recipe for breakfast casserole.

 

I loaf of cheap white bread

Five eggs

Milk (I don’t know how much…enough to make the bread pretty soupy.)

About two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.

About a teaspoon of salt/garlic salt

Two cups of red peppers

I package of cheap breakfast links

One cup of sour cream

Cut crusts off of bread, and then cut into quarters. Layer in a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Break eggs into bowl. Add sour cream and beat. Add milk.

Cut the tops off of peppers and dice.

Cut sausage links into half inch pieces. Fry them up with the peppers. Add sausage and peppers to egg mixture.

Put half of the bread in the egg mixture. Let it get nice and soppy. Pour this over the remaining bread in the pan.

Cover and refrigerate over night.

Bake at 450 for an hour and a half.

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The Write Faith

At the end of November I was face to face with a big question. Do I have enough faith to spend my time writing books that logic says won’t sell? As you may come face to face with this same question in your life as a writer, I thought I’d share my story with you.

Can I be totally frank with you?

I don’t write literary fiction. My books aren’t deep, there isn’t a lot of internal monologue, and…here’s the part I hesitate to mention…they tend to average about 3rd-4th grade reading level. For comparison, the NIV Bible is translated into 6th grade English.

My books are full of fun action and snappy dialogue. And they have an ease of read factor that some readers really like.

Nonetheless, many grown up readers find them juvenile, and my reviews at Amazon reflect that. My writing income has been tracking upward since I began in this business a couple of years ago, so I figured my work ain’t perfect, but it’s workin’.

However, several friends have asked if I would consider writing middle grade books, as it seemed like it would suit my natural style.

My two middle grade reading daughters asked me if I would please write kids books for them..

And this spring, I ended up at the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators conference for a day. It felt like the mothership had called me home….And yet I went home and plotted another murder mystery.

You see, I just didn’t want to write “chapter books.”

So far, “chapter books” just don’t sell well at Amazon, and Amazon sales have always been my bread and butter. Why would I step away from something successful to enter into something that looks, for all purposes, like it could only fail?

Put another way: Did I have enough faith to invest my talents, or was I going to keep them buried under the convenient midlist mysteries I have been writing?

At my November critique group our fearless leader said, “Listen, you just need to write to your strengths. Don’t try to do what doesn’t come naturally.” I left that meeting still torn. Was it fair to my family for me to spend my time writing books that might not sell? I posed the question to a publisher friend of mind. I didn’t mention the issue being about children’s books though; I just voiced my concerns over struggling with my writing style in general. She said the same thing. Don’t torture your style to make it match the wrong genre.

They were both right, these mentors of mine. But what if I failed?

And then, I went to a toy store.

It’s a fabulous local place that keeps Girl Scout uniforms in stock. I had to go two days in a row, one to get the vest I needed, and the next to get the stuff to go on the vest. That second day the store owner remembered me. We got to chatting and my books came up. The store owner took one of my cards and asked if my books could be ordered from Ingrams. (The wholesale distributor.)

Do you see what just happened there? A local toy store that stocks books for kids asked if I had anything they could order. And I didn’t but someday I could!

God didn’t hit me over the head with a log and tell me to write children’s books. But I think after the week I’ve had it would be almost disobedient not to try!

Despite middle grade novels being new territory for me, despite them also being new territory for e-readers, I am finally ready to take the plunge. I will step out in faith—with TONS of prayer—into uncharted waters.

And you should too.

I don’t mean that you should write kids books. But you should listen carefully at your critique groups. How do your peers define your strengths? When you write, what part of your book gives you the most satisfaction? In your non-writing life, what gets your heart pumping? Is there a place where these all intersect? Is there an uncharted territory God could be using you in, if you only had the faith to step out?

Obviously, I don’t have a contract in hand right now, or any other BIG sign to close this post with. I just have the faith to try. And that, at least from this side of the monitor, seems like a very big thing, to me.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I recently finished the first of a three book mystery series that I plan to complete. Funnily enough, when I read the completed story I thought it sounded an awful lot like a Young Adult novel.)

Traci Tyne Hilton is an award winning playwright from Portland, Oregon, the author of the Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery Series, and one of the authors in the The Tangle Saga series of science fiction novellas.

Traci earned a degree in History from PortlandStateUniversity and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, their two daughters, and their dog, Dr. Watson.

More of Traci’s work can be found at http://www.tracihilton.com

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