Salt. What is the significance of salt in our writing? We all know we must avoid too much salt in our diets, especially those of us that suffer from high blood pressure. Salt taken in moderation turns a bland meal into a flavorful delight, a piece of watermelon in to summertime treat, and tomato picked fresh from the garden into a real love apple. We won’t mention what a sprinkle of salt does to a snail, and I don’t mean escargot.
In the natural world, the purpose of salt is to create thirst, preserve, and to add taste. Shouldn’t salt play a significant role in our writing? Shouldn’t our words create a thirst in our readers? If we can make our readers thirsty enough, they’ll come back for another drink, then another, then another. Just the right amount of salt will keep them wanting more? Just be careful not to overdo it. No need causing high blood pressure on your first page.
One of the staples on ancient sailing ships was salt pork. Early explorers and military fleets packed barrels of pork in salt when they’d go to sea for months or even years at a time. It wasn’t the healthiest diet but it did help sustain their lives until they could restock their ship stores. However, ships always carried extra barrels of salt so they could preserve their restock during extended missions.
This is where salt comes into play in our writing. When writing a mystery or thriller, we can’t use up our whole plot on the first page. We use a little salt here and a little there, preserving our storyline for future nourishment. If applied in correct dosage, a salty story will preserve the life of your characters and plot. If your salt begins to peter out, just open another barrel and preserve another meal.
And finally taste. I’ve learned after over 60-years of life that if I like the way food tastes, I’ll go back for a second helping. It doesn’t have to be the healthiest food, the prettiest food, or even the best prepared food. But if I like the taste, I’ll be back. It’s the same with our writing. Even though we want to produce the most attractive product possible, sometimes it’s just the taste that counts.
I don’t mind reviews that say my mechanics need work. I know they do. But I love it when a reviewer says they couldn’t stop turning pages, that they had to have just one more taste, then another, then another. Salt – sometimes it’s just what the doctor ordered.