In San Francisco, there is this wonderful salad bar called Pluto’s. It’s near the Academy of Science Museum, and I try to make sure we go. It’s one of those salad bars where you pick the base (whether rocket or iceberg, etc) and then you get to select what you put on it. It’s kind of like Subway, but for salads. You choose the meat (or lack of it,) you pick your veg and bits, and you pick the sauce. I’ve seen them in other cities as well, but Pluto’s always stands out for me.
Why, I hear people asking, is she going on about salad bars?
Well, the truth is, I like that sort of thing because I don’t like dredging through stuff I don’t like just to get to the bits that I do. Unfortunately, this is an aspect of many parts of life, especially books and writing.
I will hold up my hands and say it: I love vampire stories. There is a massive market for paranormal romance books, and the fanged floozy is the first race of supernatural beings to be used in many instances. However, the problem is that I don’t particularly like paranormal romance books. Many of them are very well written, and when people like that genre, wow, they really like that genre and will eat up anything an author gives. It just isn’t really for me. I like my romance to be a side, one of the selections I put on top of my salad, not the salad itself. I like my vampires to be ripping the necks out of people and having fun doing it. Whether or not they are trying to take over the world at the time, well, that’s up for debate. I like my murderous monsters to be just that… murderous. Occasionally I’ll enjoy the odd nice one, but in general, I’d rather my vamps suck blood than suck face.
The problem is, most paranormal books I find, the romance is the base, paranormal the extras, where as I enjoy it far more when both paranormal aspects and the romance are extras, where there is a broader plot at work that makes up the most of the plate.
I’m the same with Sci-Fi. I like Sci-Fi to have a hard edge, with technology, space travel, new races, and the like. But I like these to be the extras on the salad. I also like to add in some odder ones. Family and Romance dressing, for example. The story, for me, should always be the main element, the base. In theory, you should be able to tell the base plot in a variety of genres or settings. I decided to break down Dead and Buryd into a salad bar selection.
Base – Rocket
A group of people escaping slavery and fighting for their rights.
Meat Addition – Steak
A Sci-Fi setting, where in the planet that has been invaded suffers extreme weathers.
Salad Additions x 5
A strong traditional and tribe based nomadic element for the Veniche race.
New Technology and Weaponry
A few romance elements for different characters
Strong elements of family and friendship bonds between characters and what happens when those break down.
Dressing – Balsamic
Treachery, betrayals, and secret agendas
So, that’s it. That is what Dead and Buryd (or more, Out of Orbit as a whole) would be if it were a salad. As you can see, the original story could have been set anywhere. I could have done it in a paranormal setting, or as a historical novel. The base story is relatively simple. It was how I added to it that made it a Sci-Fi.
The thing is though, if you don’t have a good base, if your lettuce is wilted or the main plot falls flat… the toppings aren’t going to cover that and make it a good story. You’ll end up picking at the bits you like and leaving the rest…
And now I’m really craving steak salad.