Need-ing Bread: Texture in Writing

30 Jul

Telera Rolls

One of the ways I try to improve my writing is by adding texture to my scenes. One way to do this is enhance my description. Why have someone fix a sandwich with whole wheat bread when they can use a Telera roll? Maybe the character bakes these from her great grandma’s recipe, and it’s a comfort food for her.

Every Christmas, my sister and I make bäkkels from our Norwegian grandmother’s handwritten recipe book. The whole process means we’re carrying on a tradition in our family. That’s one more thing you know about me.


If I have a character who dreams of going to France, maybe she buys a loaf at a boulangerie (It’s really a bakery), takes it home and eats chunks of it on the front steps of the apartement she rents in Milwaukee. She uses the French spelling and pronunciation, which strikes some people as annoying. But, she won’t give up her dream. Baguettes described from her POV involve the look, feel, smell, and taste of the bread as she sits and dreams. Readers learn more about this character.

As much as I’d love to have my texturing done in the first draft, I don’t manage to get it right the first time around. I have to get to know more about my characters as I write their story before I can add texture. I go back and put in those eccentricities that make them unique.

I’ve addressed how to make characters more unique through texturing, but it doesn’t end there. Setting, dialogue, and POV must also be textured into my story to make it memorable.

What is your process for adding texture and layers to your stories?


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14 responses to “Need-ing Bread: Texture in Writing

  1. maryvine

    July 30, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    I like the title. I’m Norweigan, too. I just may need your recipe. After reading your post, I’m thinking I need to go back and add more texturing while editing. Hard for me to know where to add it, sometimes. Everything is not in my first draft either, but like you said, when we get to know the character, then it’s easier to add later.

    • Janis McCurry

      July 30, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      It is hard because I don’t want to add padding that doesn’t mean anything. Too much or too little. SIGH.

  2. Peggy Staggs

    July 30, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    Texture is so important. I like the idea of bringing in something that’s indicative to the area.

    I picture the area and sift in the details. I use pictures and photographs (if I’ve been there recently.) It takes a few passes, but the details make their way onto the page.

    • Janis McCurry

      July 30, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      Sifting’s a good word for it. A careful hand so things don’t get too doughy. 😉

  3. stephanieberget

    July 30, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Norwegians abound in CBC. Me, too. I love your description of texture. I’m working on adding texture now, a little bit at a time.

  4. Janis McCurry

    July 30, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    Good luck, Steph!!

  5. Liz Fredericks

    July 30, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    I didn’t know the term ‘layering’ until one of my cp used it when I mentioned “going back and adding stuff”. My approach is similar to yours, but I don’t think I do as much with senses as with dialogue. I need to work on the senses.

    • Janis McCurry

      July 30, 2012 at 1:06 PM

      I attended a workshop once that likened finding a character to peeling an onion, getting through the layers to find GMC. Adding layers does the reverse.

  6. Meredith Allen Conner

    July 30, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    I’m an editing gal/layering gal – I go back and continuing adding words, senses, new scenes, dialogue, etc . . . all the time. I edit and layer my way through my WIP.

    • Janis McCurry

      July 30, 2012 at 1:07 PM

      Glad to see others process the same way. Hope all is going well with you.

  7. Lynn Mapp

    July 30, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    Janis, writing is a process. I know there are some brilliant writers who get everything right the at the first draft. I’m not one of those people. It takes rewrite after rewrite.

  8. Janis McCurry

    July 31, 2012 at 6:57 AM

    You’re among friends. You can admit to multiple drafts. 😉

  9. Clarissa Southwick

    August 19, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    Don’t know how I missed this post. Great advice, Janis. I’m off to re-tweet it:)

  10. Janis McCurry

    August 20, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Thanks for the RT!


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