The Soul of Your Story: writing a book is like making a cake

Written by Claire L. Fishback, PMP

Book Coach & Story Strategist

October 17, 2023

Last week we dug into the driving force behind your story. This week, we’ll discover its soul… with a cake analogy.

I made my mom a triple chocolate layer cake with cookie crumbles for her b’day earlier this month, and as I began, I thought to myself, “planning and writing a book is like making a cake.”

“How so?” You ask.

Well, if you don’t have a good foundation—the cake part of the cake—there’s nothing on which to add frosting and other decorative elements.

This four-part series is all about creating this glorious foundation of your story so you can layer in all the other elements, like realistic characters, snappy dialogue, engaging scenery and settings, and the actual plot.

You re-kindled the spark and dug deep into why you want to write this story in the previous step. The next part of the foundation is discovering…

Your story’s soul

Your story’s soul is what will draw your reader in on a deep level. It’s a game changer to have meaning and purpose behind your story, and when every scene in your story serves that purpose, your reader will feel it. Your story will be more compelling and memorable, too. They’ll be more likely to recommend your amazing book to their friends, relatives, strangers, and eventually Oprah and her book club. (what? I can dream can’t I?)

So, what is the soul of your story?

Your Message to the World

Your spark and your why are the cake in this delicious analogy.

Your story’s message to the world is the interior frosting that holds the layers together, effectively binding them so they don’t fall apart.

Together, these three elements give your story the foundation for your plot, characters, and settings.

Every story has a message to deliver to the reader, and there are many universal messages. In fact, it’s okay for you to have a cliché as your message, because that means it is universal and your reader will recognize it.

This is the soul of your story and will help guide you along the way. If it’s easier to get started, think of some universal themes or clichés and start there, for example, “love conquers evil.”

Look at the work you did for your WHY last week. Chances are, the message you want to share with the world comes from why you want to write this story specifically.

Are you wanting to share with your daughter that women can do anything (and oftentimes better than men)? Do you want to share that fear can be overcome by taking small courageous actions? Do you want to make a stand against political injustice? Do you want to say something about humanity and being human in a world where AI is emerging? Do you want to explore good and evil and the gray areas in-between?

My new novel’s message is about how we don’t always know what other people are going through, so be kind, be patient, be understanding. Because we don’t know the inner stories of every stranger, and sometimes we don’t even know the inner stories of our closest friends. At it’s most basic core, my story is one about being kind to others. And yes, it’s horror, so it should be interesting!

The first two books in my Origin Codex trilogy have the message to the world of, good and evil are not always black and white, but consist of shades of gray.

For those books, I started with good conquers evil and adapted it, evolved it, and developed it from there.

Start with a universal theme and evolve your story idea using your write up of why this story is important to you and why you want to write it.

Why this is important: Everything in your book will exist to deliver this message. Knowing the message will give your first draft purpose and meaning.

It will also keep you on track if you start to wander off course. At the end of your first draft, it’ll make revising easier, too. If a scene doesn’t serve the purpose of your message, you can likely delete it.

Next week we’ll dig into who the best person is to carry this message: your main character and their opposing force. The main character and a well developed opposing force are like the crumb coat.

They’re that final necessary layer to bind everything together for a beautiful end product.

Keep writing!


P.S. In November, I’ll be doing another public accountability event like I did in April (here’s the debrief).

Want to join me? Just click here and add your name to the list for free! The fun begins on November 1st.

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