Monday, July 6, 2015

Enticing shorts

By Cristin Nelson

As a food writer, I really saw a use for Roy Peter Clark's chapters on "how to write short."  Almost all recipes in publication have a headnote, which is a short paragraph (usually two to five sentences) about the recipe.  The headnote might include why the author thinks the recipe is special, a story about where the author first had the dish, special notes about the ingredients or the method, the history or typical manner of serving, a combination of the above, or something else entirely.

Unless there are some specific special instructions needed for the dish, the function of a headnote is to entice the reader to make the dish (this is especially true if there is no photo accompanying the recipe).  The headnote has only a few words, really, to introduce the dish and grab the reader's attention.  Words must be carefully selected for their imagery and economy.  Although authors should use headnotes as an extension of their writing style, there is really no room for the wordy and extraneous phrases mentioned in class today.

Writing headnotes could be good practice for writing short because it is difficult to lose focus or swing too wide of your topic when there are no larger issues involved--when you have a simple topic, you would only need to focus on word choice and conciseness.

I found a few examples of headnotes today.  These are interesting examples because in a couple of them, the vivid description in the first half are so enticing (I can almost taste the native fresh corn, coconut milk, lime, and fresh basil, for example).  But, these headnotes don't really seal the deal-- some language is clunky and doesn't read easily, and so the notes lose some of the magic of imagery as I spend another couple of seconds trying to decipher their meaning.

No comments:

Post a Comment