Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why "Chopped" is Like a Writing Challenge

Yeah, that's what I said. Bear with me for a minute...

So I'm sitting here watching "Chopped" on the Food Network. Food Network, by the way, is my crack right now. It's on all the time while I'm working at home, and I've even picked up a few tips along the way. But I digress...

Anywho, to the uninitiated, "Chopped" is a show in which four chefs are given a basket of secret ingredients and must create dishes using those ingredients in under thirty minutes. Usually, the ingredients make little sense together (recent dessert round: ripened plantains, prosecco, crystalized ginger, and bacon), but the chefs have to make them work together and taste good. It's fun to watch. I love to see what these folks come up with off the tops of their heads.

During a commercial break, I jumped over to Twitter and a friend made a comment about the upcoming NaNoWriMo Challenge. To the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo means National Novel Writing Month. It's a writing challenge held every November, in which participants are challenged to write at least 50,000 words between Nov 1 and Nov 30. That's about 1700 words a day, minimum. That's a lot of words.

Now, not everyone takes NaNo seriously. Many folks do it in order to take a break from more serious endeavors--they allow their writing to go completely wild, without the pressure of making it "good." They use it as a way to get into a writing groove and to improve upon their daily word count output. To do this, challenges are issued to other participants, by participants. The challenges are usually to include random, odd elements in the story.

From this, my brain took another hard-left tangent back to my days writing fanfiction. I participated in a mailing list in which similar writing challenges were issued. We were given a list of random elements, and we were challenged to include them all in a story. The list could have looked something like this: a stuffed gorilla, banana ice cream, a clown riding a skateboard, fireworks, and a length of rubber hose. And people would write stories. Usually very good stories. Some folks went goofy, but many of us chose to use this as an exercise to improve our skills.

We did the very best we could with the ingredients we were given, and we put together the best final product possible.

Kind of like the chefs on "Chopped."

Now I miss those old fanfiction challenges.

(And don't forget to comment in the Countdown: October Contest!!! Still two days!)


Unknown said...

I will have to check that show out. I'm big fan of Top Chef, and Bobby Flay is my favorite chef. I've never been good at writing fiction. Opinion yes, fiction no.

Tyhitia Green said...

I'm participating in my first NanoWrimo event. I'm excited. :-D I normally write about 2000 words a day anyway, but I've gotten out of that rhythm since March when I got married, but I'm ready to get back to writing every day. :-D