It’s All in the Timing

We had breakfast for dinner tonight.

To be more precise, we had buttermilk pancakes, maple syrup, bacon, and scrapple for dinner tonight, and our established grammar and syntax of dining say that this is breakfast, even if eaten at 8 PM.  And a meal that would be eminently satisfactory in its accustomed time slot becomes something even better — unexpected and even a little bit subversive — when consumed at a time of day normally reserved for roast meats and steamed vegetables, for soups and stir-fries and casseroles.

The same principle holds for writing.  Put a character into a setting that’s out of sync with his or her normal environment, and you add interest.  Move an event out of its traditional or expected place in the storyline, and you generate suspense — if the author has played fast and loose with one set of expectations, all of the others are fair games as well, and anything can happen.

It’s not always necessary to invent new things.  A lot of the time, you can do just as well simply by putting familiar things in unexpected places.

2 thoughts on “It’s All in the Timing

  1. Scrapple is . . . well, to quote Wikipedia, “a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, and slices of the scrapple are then panfried before serving.”

    It was invented by the Pennsylvania Dutch, and is a big thing in that state and the surrounding parts of the Northeast. I learned to like it way back while I was in grad school in Philadelphia, and was happily surprised a few weeks ago when it showed up in the local supermarket.

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