Thursday, October 31, 2013

Knowing When A Story Done Is Like Baking Custard

Oh this is good stuff!
My fellow authors and I were having an email conversation and I discovered we share a common issue when writing. Knowing when the story is done.
In my own opinion I compare it to baking custard.
Now that may seem an odd analogy, but hey you’ve all been reading me for a while so you should be used to that by now.
You see I’ve been making baked custard since I was about twelve years old. Why? Well I love custard, so did my Mom and Dad, but my siblings…not so much. What do they know? However, being from a good sized family my Mom told me that she couldn’t take the time to make something that just a few people liked.
So if I wanted it, I would have to learn to make it myself.
So I did and I you know what? It’s not hard to bake custard.
With custard you have four ingredients. Milk, eggs, sugar and salt. You combine them and cook them in a water bath until done. That’s all there is to it.
Except, figuring out when it’s done.
Because making custard isn’t hard. What’s hard is getting it right.
You see with custard you have a very narrow window between underdone, overdone and just right. Seems to be no in between with the stuff. It all starts when you combine those four ingredients. You have to scald the milk (complicated cooking term), and since the milk is hot and eggs are cold you to temper the eggs (another complicated cooking term) with the hot milk or you have sweet scrambled eggs. There’s also the water bath thing, but you’ve got to do it that way or the custard won’t get done all the way, which is bad. Also so many factors can play into how the texture turns out. The temperature of your water path, or not getting the milk the right temperature at the beginning can all mess you up. I’ve had custard be silky smooth one time and more like tapioca the next.  Fortunately both ways work, as long as it’s cooked all the way I’m good with it.
Now I’ve been doing custard long enough to where I know what the milk needs to look like before adding it to the eggs, and I can pretty much look at it and know when it’s ready. It’s the way it wiggles. Don’t ask it’s just something you just know when you’ve done it long enough.
Writing a story is the same way. Don’t do enough and your story isn’t satisfying to the reader, do too much and you can lose the reader. You’ve got to find that point of knowing when to stop and it’s different for each writer.
So how do I know when I’m done? It’s the way it wiggles.

Mystery writer C.L. Ragsdale is the author of The Reboot Files a Christian Cozy Mystery Series, and a superhero story called Chasing Lady Midnight. A California native, she loves to "surf" the web to research plot details for her fun, quirky stories. She has a degree in Theatre Arts which greatly influenced her writing style. Working in various fields as a secretary has allowed her to both master her writing skills and acquire valuable technical knowledge which she uses liberally in her plots. Although that is where she got her idea for The Secretary, she is not an evil mastermind. Although some of her former employers might disagree. These days she contents herself with knitting while contemplating her next diabolical plot. Story plot that is.

Current E-Books
THE REBOOT FILES:  The Mystery of Hurtleberry House, The Island of Living Trees, The Harbinger of Retribution, and The Wrong Ghost.


  1. My first experience with custard was being treated to creme caramel at a fancy restaurant. After I got married I baked my husband a custard pie. He loved it so much that I make one for him on his birthday every year and one for whenever he's done something nice for me.

    Wish I could share yours - the photo looks delicious!


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