I love fortune cookies. From cracking them open, to pulling out the slip of paper, to reading the fortune, to eating the sweet crunchy thing—I love everything about them. I always smile when I find saved fortunes (a recent “found” cache led to this post) whenever I go through an old purse or drawers in my house. They’re great for starting conversation at a party, especially when one of my friends yells, “In bed!” after every reading. They make an easy dessert.
But what good are fortune cookies to writers? Ah, let me count the ways…
- Fortune cookies are succinct in their predictions or advice. They don’t tell you everything. No backstory. No names. Just “Beware a stranger.” or “A surprise tonight.” What if you plant a foreshadowing idea or information like a fortune cookie for your reader? You can heighten the suspense, tension or anticipation with a hint of danger or excitement, but keep it a mystery so your readers continue to turn the pages.
- Fortune cookies are fun. Who hasn’t scoffed at a fortune cookie, then later had a friend remind them about dinner at Wong Fu’s and the crazy fortunes? Have you ever gotten a fortune that you so wanted to be true? What would that fortune be for your protagonist? For your villain?
- Have you ever gotten a fortune that you abso-posi-lutely didn’t want to happen? Were you hyper-vigilant, worried, in denial, laughing? What if an off-handed comment produced the same response in your hero? Think about how that comment was heard. From a neighboring table in a fancy restaurant by a beautiful stranger? Overheard outside his partner’s office? Whispered in his ear after passionate lovemaking? The message is important, but so is the delivery.
- What do you do when the bag, or box, is empty? Do you rush out for more? Are you happy those cookies are finally gone? What does your character do when there seems to be no help, no insight, no where to turn? Do they rush to be in the company of others or are they content with solitude? Do they seek advice from reliable, or not so reliable, sources? How do they get through that black moment?
- If your muse is on vacation, grab a bag of fortune cookies and crack them open. You’ll find something to spark a story idea, whether it’s for your work in progress or for starting a brand new project. Expect some fun, even if you don’t eat the cookies.
- Everybody orders take-out. Think goal-motivation-conflict. The hero’s goal is bad news for your heroine. Her goal is equally bad for him. What if they ordered take-out, alone or together, and the fortunes are just what they want, but for the other person? You could spin that into a humorous, awkward, or dramatic response, depending on where the scene takes place in your book.
- And, of course, you know, there never has to be a mention of a fortune cookie in your manuscript. This can be a covert strategy. Transparency isn’t necessary for authors.
Share one of your saved fortunes with us. Other than “You’re going to sell a book soon”-because that’s a given, what would your ideal fortune say right now?
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong. She is grateful for friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.
A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand their stories be told. Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard.