Monday, October 4, 2010


When I was younger, I remember the German Chocolate Cake frenzy (What? You don't?). I remember it at every church event. For holidays. For birthdays. Everyone was head over heels for this German Chocolate Cake.

I remember because I wasn't much of a fan. I mean, it was alright, but it was so rich and sweet I could only stand a few bites. At one point I was so sick of seeing this cake everywhere that I wished the Germans would take it back. No, I wish they'd never brought it to America in the first place.

Many years passed before I ran into the German Chocolate Cake again. I was watching the Food Network (as I am wont to do), and they had this piece on the history of my German nemesis.

I watched, flabbergasted, as the host explained that German Chocolate Cake is named after an Englishman named Sam German, who created a dark baking chocolate—German Baking Chocolate. The chocolate became popular in the 1950s, at which point the recipe for German Chocolate Cake was created in AMERICA. If you don't believe my television recount, Wikipedia agrees.

And here I was blaming the Germans all these years.

We all know assumptions are bad, but today I want to relate them to our characters. Working on my new Sekrit Project (aka: Squishy), I've been thinking a lot about the process of getting to know those fake people we write so much about.

It's kind of like getting know real people, at least it is for me. Sometimes I think they're one way, and it takes a long time for me to truly see what's going on with them. Because of that sometimes story elements or character choices don't ring true, and I have to go back and figure out what my sneaky characters were hiding.

As an example, I thought my current MC didn't care about popularity. That's what they told me at first, but having written about 70 pages now I see that they were either lying or they don't realize how much they care. I know this is something I will need to go back and smooth out—it is something I couldn't have foreseen or managed because I just didn't know that much about my MC yet. They told me one thing—I assumed it was true.

That's why you always have to dig deeper into your characters. That's why you just can't avoid editing. That first draft is basically full of assumptions—about how the story should go, how the characters should act, what you're trying to say. You don't actually know until you've written it, and editing is like going through and erasing all those false assumptions.

German Chocolate Cake is not from Germany. And my MC really does care about popularity, though they don't want anyone to find out. Good to know.


  1. So, Natalie,

    I love everything about this post.

    1) It's something I haven't heard. I love where you've said, "That's why you just can't avoid editing." First drafts are assumption drafts, and I've never seen them in this light before. Of course you won't have a perfect first draft, but this is the best break-down of why I've come across yet.

    2) I'm not the only one… who doesn't love German Chocolate Cake. This is my dad's favorite, and apparently it's a lot of other people's favorite, too. Not so much mine. Glad to see I'm not alone on this.

    3)Trivia = awesome. Sam German, an Englishman? Wow. What a random, but interesting, fact to know. I love that you've made an analogy out of it.

    4)Squishy. Can't help it. I still love that you're referring to your WIP as Squishy. It's fun to say.

    :) Kayla Olson

  2. Um, ditto what Kayla said, 100%.

  3. +1 to Kayla's comment.

    One last note on Sam German: it's technically German's chocolate (check out the package) and thus German's chocolate cake. Nobody remembers that, though.

    And I don't like it either. I don't like chewing on coconut forever.

  4. Funny comparison. :) I am not a fan of german chocolate cake. I think it's the coconut icing that kills it for me. But isn't it amazing the things we learn about our characters when we dig deeper?

  5. What?! German Chocolate Cake is DELICIOUS. Psh.

    I love when there are more to our characters than meets the eye. Makes them seem that much more...real.

  6. I *love* German chocolate cake. Haven't seen one in years, though. Probably just as well.

    Getting to know my characters is one of the things I really enjoy about writing. Just now starting to dig into my new NaNo cast to find out what makes them tick.

  7. German chocolate cake is AWESOME! I love it. But so agree with your take on assumptions and getting to know your characters. I really have to work on that...while I'm eating german chocolate

  8. Brilliant post.
    When I look back on my earliest notes about my MC, I can't believe how wrong I was. There were all sorts of things I thought I knew, and I just didn't have a clue.

  9. Right on! When you said, "That first draft is basically full of assumptions" that made a lot of sense to me.

    Great post.

  10. Wow. I didn't know that about German Choc. Cake. I love the way you put this. Editing is a great thing.

  11. Good to know. My MC for a MG novel is hiding out, too. I'm going to have to do a LOT of prying to really get to know him.

  12. Good to find your blog. So true about delving down into characters.

    warm wishes

  13. Good post! Love your comments about getting past assumptions about characters ... so true.

    Also, German Chocolate Cake is YUMMY.

  14. Thats so true. Sometimes my characters suprise me with the way they act, and I just have to go with the flow.

    And German Chocolate Cake is just so-so for me. We actually just had some a couple weeks ago, and I hadn't had it in like, years. So its funny you bring it up.

  15. I realize this post is about characters and not german chocolate cake, but I have to say, GCC is MY FAVORITE! I hate all other types of cake. I am NOT a cake fan. But GCC.... ooooh, the coconut... the chocolate.... YUM!

    Now I need a piece.

    BTW, it turns out I lost your email when I switched computers. BOO! :(

  16. I LOVE German Chocolate cake. *drools*

    But I didn't know it wasn't brought over by the Germans. Learn something new everyday--just like with writing and my characters: I'm always learning something new about them. For me, when I'm writing the first draft, it's kind of like watching a flower open; more of its beauty is revealed as I keep writing.

  17. Brilliance!

    And true, things are definitely not as they first seem.