Consider the Onion


Consider the Onion

By Nandy Ekle

This is not a cooking lesson, or a nutrition lesson, even though I am a pretty good cook, and know enough about nutrition that I raised three kids to health adulthood. But I want to consider the onion as a metaphor. And this is nothing new. Onions have made famous metaphors for time out of mind. I just feel like it’s my turn to consider the onion.

A lot of people don’t like onions in their food because they’re so strong, maybe a little hot on the tongue, they make you cry when you cut them up, they smell bad, and some people claim to get headaches when they eat onions (maybe because of the smell). But these are exactly the reasons onions are needed in our diet.

And so, as writers, we will examine the onion as an ingredient for our stories. First of all, they have layers. Some onions have what seem to be thousands of layers. And our stories should also have layers. The more layers we have in our stories, the better. We want thick, strong purple layer on the outside to get the reader’s attention, but we also want the thicker, juicier layers the deeper we go. This is the flavor of the story. And we want the very center, the core, to be so soft and sweet, so heart gripping, that our readers weep with every cut they make closer to the center.

We also treasure that smell. Now, it is true that an onion’s odor is not really a perfume we want to go to the store to buy. In fact, it has the reputation of being one of the worst smells in the world. But really and truly, isn’t that how we identify that it’s an onion? But then, we add heat to it, and guess what happens. The smell and the flavor change to something so mouth watering we can’t wait to eat.

So there you go. Add heat to your story. You can add a slow, all-day heat and watch the story turn different colors before your eyes. Then when your reader eats it, it will melt in their mouths and they won’t be able to stop reading. Or you can apply high fast heat, which will bring out the sweetness quickly, causing your readers to beg for more, more, more.

And then there’s the tears when you cut the onion. And when your readers cut to the middle of your story, what could be better than a good cry?

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

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