By: Wendy Lu
We all love pizza. Don’t deny it. The truth is, none of us are able to resist the the ooey-gooeyness of mozzarella cheese and the sweet, tangy tomato sauce of America’s—no, the world’s—favorite pie. There is just something about the perfect layering of each ingredient, one on top of each other, that makes a delectable creation in the end. Kudos to the Italians; I guess we have you to thank for this piece of brilliance we call pizza.
What does pizza have to do with anything? Well, for one, it’s kind of delicious. For another, a pizza is just like a novel. I’m serious. So the other day, I was eating a large, scrumptious slice of pepperoni and mushroom pizza, still sizzling from the oven, at the local pizzeria right on the biggest hotspots in my college town. I was reading Flash Fiction Forward, a collection of short shorts written by various writers such as Amy Hempel, Stace Budzko and Pamela Painter. Okay, seriously—short stories and Italian food? People, I had a major literary pizza-gasm. And it was amazing, to be sure.
After I left and the effects of the pizza-gasm were still wearing off, it occurred to me that good pizza is really not so different from a good novel. Both require ingredients, and both must layer those ingredients somehow into a creative arrangement. And, most importantly, both must provide an unforgettable experience.
Writers of all shapes and sizes and genders and genres, I am pleased to introduce: The Pizza Model.
This isn’t the most exciting part of the pizza, but it is one of the most important. The crust serves as the base to any pizza no matter what sort of
genregarnish you use. Without the crust, all the ooey-gooey cheese and toppings and flavorful sauces would just end up as a sad pile on the table. When it comes to novel-writing, the crust consists of words—some crispy and lightly salted, others buttery and melt-in-your-mouth. Every word is a crumb, and the crumbs are connected together with syntactical devices and other grammatical tools that make sentences go together. These words are the backbone to any novel; without them, there would be nothing to build characters, plots and quirky details with.
For me, the sauce of any pizza equates to the background of any novel. I’m using the term ‘background’ to include everything from setting to character back story to all the details that make up the world in which the story takes place. The sauce is everything your audience needs to know about this world. Before—or at least while—you introduce any major plots or people, you must convince your audience that their world is real. Different sauces can create different backgrounds. Some are sweeter than they are tangy (think Mary’s Secret Garden), and some are tangier than they are sweet (think Wonderland), and some are just right (the Wizarding World).
None of you can tell me that a pizza can be pizza without cheese. Because it can’t. Similarly, a novel can’t be a novel without creamy conflicts and ooey-gooey characters (like Mr. Darcy, for instance). The key reason we love certain novels is because of the characters that we come to know, befriend and care about deeply. Each has his or her own distinct personality quirks, unforgivable flaws and secrets. And their interactions with each other replicates the way cheese stretches from bite to bite on a slice of pizza. Additionally, a novel is like a very long short story and has to have at least one big conflict, if not many. The characters should not be the same at the end as they were in the beginning. At some point, it must come clear to the audience that they’ve changed or grown in some way.
The toppings of a novel are the passages that keep the audience reading. They are the steamy sex scenes, the cat fights between best friends, the horrifying car accidents, the secrets untold and the bitch-slaps-in-the-face that unfaithful boyfriends get. These toppings add flavor and zest, lust and acidity. The toppings also include irony, imagery, significant motifs, symbols and tone. Of course, on a pizza we can see these toppings very clearly, but what makes these toppings so delicious is buried under that rubbery mushroom or olive surface. In a novel, such toppings become so apparent to us especially later on in the book, and yet we don’t actually see them. They’re abstract, but they’re there. And they are what make the pizza-novel unique in the end.
If you have learned anything today, just remember, folks: No two slices of pizza are alike.
Wendy Lu (aka The Red Angel) is a creative writer, editorial intern, journalism and psychology student, blogger, Nanoer, friendly face, and generally fabsies person who loves to jot down anything and everything she can. She blogs ala so at http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com, and can be found having yet more adventures! on le twitters at @xtheredangelx.