Don't make a huge mess cooking up a Martha Story

Your inside scoop on writing that dishes all the dirt

July 05, 2002|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

The Fourth of July holiday weekend is set to sizzle, and what better time to whip up a do-it-yourself Martha Stewart Story. Just follow these original grilling techniques and you, too, can write a mouth-watering creation that screams summer vacation, beach and barbecue and insider trading scandal!

Ingredients: Start with more than 1,000 stories in the past week about Martha Stewart. Stories include last week's Newsweek cover, "Martha's Mess," which reported that guests of Martha's East Hampton spread are instructed to walk one way on the grass so it wears evenly. Fortune magazine weighed in with a parody calendar: "July 20: Embroider initials on orange jumpsuit."

Helpful Writing Tip No. 1: Drop prison decorating jokes. They're stale.

Homework: Read Martha stories until you never want to see the words "domestic diva" or "high priestess of domesticity" again. Next, visit Martha's Web site - but be careful to hit sites evenly. Note: Martha Flowers, Martha By Mail, Martha Cards, Martha Stationery, Martha Travel and Totes, Martha Books, Martha Crafts, Martha Gardening. You should detect a common ingredient.

Helpful Tip No. 2: Martha Stewart sells "Old Glory Taffy." Perfect. Let simmer for possible use in your story.

Continue to browse Web site, where you'll find a "Martha's New England Breakfast Sampler" for $66, a Martha Stewart Quiet Time CD for $11.98. A Martha Stewart "It's a Good Thing" T-shirt is $18, and a "Cake Decorating Video" is $14. You now have some idea of the scope of the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia empire. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Helpful Tip No. 3: Avoid stale lines from remake of The Fly.

Beginning: Now, you're ready to start writing. Beginnings can be difficult, but use what you have learned. Your research can provide you with ingredients to craft a zesty opening paragraph. For example:

The Fourth of July weekend should be a time for all Americans to reflect on what is really important in their lives. It's all too easy to be carried away with the day's headlines and to pass judgment on perfect Americans. But let the message this weekend simply be this:

There are far graver issues facing the United States than the single, albeit suspicious, dumping of 3,928 shares of a biotech stock on the day before the company's cancer drug application was rebuffed by the Food and Drug Administration. That's small potatoes - oven-roasted with a hint of rosemary.

No, the real threat to our country is the potential sale of "Old Glory Taffy" on the Internet.

Critique: That was a classic, setup/punch-line opening. Here's the recipe: 1. Set up on a patriotic note. 2. Follow with news context. 3. Surprise ending with taffy reference. (Of course, this is YOUR Martha Stewart story, so the potatoes can be herb-infused, if you choose.)

Middle: Much more breathing room. Use a dash of facts: Martha Stewart was a television model and appeared in ads for Breck and Tareyton cigarettes. Her second career was as a stockbroker! Use an exclamation point to suggest irony!

To keep your story fresh, mention Martha recently hiring public relations "strategists" to best advise her on ways of not talking to the press. Shutting up is a stylish craft, too. Or mention Martha's canceling her CBS Early Show appearance this week after learning she'd be asked again about the ImClone scandal.

End: Finding a way to end your Martha Stewart Story can also be challenging. Don't be afraid to mix current press releases with current local events. For example, Martha Stewart Living plans to air a "Summer Family Week" of shows. According to the press release, "You'll catch every kid's sweet tooth with Martha's recipe for a fish-shaped Chocolate Birthday Cake."

Did you find the clue? What story in Maryland comes to mind? Think voracious appetite. Think when threatened by a loss of food or deteriorating environmental conditions, it can walk short distances on its fins.

Now, finish your Martha Story.

You'll catch every kid's sweet tooth with Martha's recipe for a northern snakehead-shaped Chocolate Birthday Cake!

Exclamation point is optional.

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