There are those who say it’s bad manners to take a bite of a chocolate candy and put it back in the box. I would respond by buying them their own box, because those partially eaten chocolates have a role to play when it comes to my writing.
Sure, there might be a guide on the inside cover, but that takes the adventure and excitement away from what I might be sinking my teeth into. I try to ignore it.
First choice: milk or dark chocolate? Is my story, chapter, or sentence going to start out soft and smooth, or will it have an edge to it that grabs the reader’s attention? How you start is up to you, but you’ll need plenty of both in your story. Too much of one or the other will throw things off balance and make it hard for your reader to get invested in the story you want to tell.
What shape? Square, circular, or heart? A square might reflect a character who is rigid or hard-edged without knowing what they’re like inside (I’ll get to that in a bit). A circular or oval candy with smooth, rounded edges might reflect someone who is kind, willing, or perhaps easily manipulated. The heart? You can go crazy with that one.
So… make a decision, and take a bite. Did you end up with a dark, square with soft caramel inside? Great choice! Dark, brooding and mysterious, but beneath that hard exterior is a loving, compassionate character with a troubled past. It might be a great character, but maybe you’re not quite ready for him/her to appear in the story. That’s okay! Put the rest of that caramel back in the box until you need it. (This is why you buy your own box.)
What if you choose a round, milk chocolate candy with coconut inside? Maybe your character takes a trip to a tropical island! They can go for a little R&R (and find love?), research a crime from a clue found on a weatherworn jungle tour ticket, or research tropical drinks because they’re going to open their own restaurant and want authentic ingredients and methods. The first bite might get them there, but save the other half for what happens when they arrive.
The heart? That one might be solid chocolate – you might be tempted to pop the entire thing into your mouth and savor it. Is that what your character does? Jumps headlong into a relationship because they listened to their heart and ignored the warning sirens going off in their brain? You could adjust the pace by letting it melt in your mouth; i.e. your character jumps in, but then slows things down and does what it takes to make the relationship work. Someone who’s been hurt before might take a tiny bite and put the rest back until they’re ready. Sometimes you only get one heart-shaped candy in the entire box… just sayin’.
There are lots of other choices to sample and nibble on. Toffee chips for those irritating, troublesome characters – perhaps your antagonist? Take a bite and think who chocolate whip, molasses chew, or cherry cordial might be, what places they might represent, or what personality traits they might bring to your story.
It’s all good, and you can pick and choose whatever you want. You can take a bite and put it back. Or not.