Author: barbarageiger

Breaking a few rules and tension fires

The author’s intentions can be sacred in creative writing instruction even if the market for that creative writing could not care less about it. If there is one thing I hate hearing after giving a critique that’s been asked for, it is the author protesting they meant to break a few rules. If they meant to tell the reader everything after the fact, they don’t need to show or have conflict. But that ignores the tension fire that needs constant tending to burn that all stories need at the very least.

The tension fire in the story is what keeps the readers warm and that warmth keeps them reading. The hotter and more meaningful it burns, the more the ideal reader is the palm of the author. Not all tension burns on conflict, of course. But a story based on the character trying to avoid what happens if they do nothing grows its own fodder to burn as the understanding of the problem gets larger. The greater the conflict, the more tension it creates when the cost of failure also escalates. It’s certainly not easy to do this well. A conflict-driven reader acclimatizes quickly to the ambient level of tension. They always want to feel warmer.

Not that tension fires always burn conflict. But fueling that fire takes far more effort than just keeping what a character knows a step behind what’s happening. Anything can burn in a tension fire, but the reader wants to feel as rewarded as the genre reader for their time invested in reading. Some work doesn’t even need a tension fire at all. We call those stories “significant literary award-winning Literature (with the big L).”

“I broke the rule on purpose” is certainly true when writers of a commercial genre choose not to include aspects of story. It’s hard to accidentally leave conflict out of a work and still have the story give the reader what they need if not what they exactly wanted. Publishing is a buyer’s paradise. No paying market has to settle for less than a rewarding experience to their reader. Work without conflict must stand on its own against all the great stories that used all of the tools in their writer’s toolbox and all the great stories that use fewer tools to build more than that.

For so many years, the creative writing community has let the fact that the easiest way to tell emotionally engaging stories is to learn how to use all the tools in the toobox as a reason to not need to learn them.

Climbing a mountain in Japan is not an easy task even if there’s a clear-marked path and vending machines along it. It still takes effort to climb. Climbing a mountain in North America past the tree-line is more difficult, but still easier than climbing mountains that have death zones. Fourteen mountains on earth have death zones but even that has varying levels of difficulties. No step along that chain needs to be “easy” to be easier than something that is more difficult.

Writing a story in which conflict drives an engaging story for the reader is the writing equivalent Cho Oyu, the easiest mountain to climb over 8000m. Doing the same without conflict fueling tension is like climbing Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen.

When a writer “breaks a few rules” without compensating for that the lack of structure is arriving in base camp with less tools and less experience than all the seasoned mountain climbers have. Writing a story without conflict is like climbing a dangerous mountain without clamps. It can be done by the most experienced of climbers, but experienced climbers just trying to summit the mountain or tell a great story would go back and get such an important piece of equipment.

The one universal lesson objective I saw in my MFA was the absolute that only the author’s intentions matter. It was bad enough they taught conventional genres did not need anything to happen. They taught literary writers that literary fiction is just conventional fiction minus the conventions of fiction. Week after week over two different classes, the protagonist talked about who they were and their problems while other characters listened and explained things that the protagonist couldn’t. A small portion of the work was exquisite but the vast majority still needed to learn that showing the character doing more than talking develops better worlds, characters and problems.

Students will always think “breaking a few rules” is fine if they’re taught it is. Even if rules they break are “show what’s important to the reader to understand independent of the character” and “conflict is the easiest thing tension can burn.”

Or, as the rules we use to remind ourselves of those facts “Show, don’t tell” and “Stories need conflict.”

Foundational structures in fiction aren’t rules, they’re chess pieces

The goal of chess is to not lose the king in the same way that the reader’s experience is the end goal of any story written for a commercial market. If the goal of a writer’s work is not to the reader’s experience, there are plenty of schools that will make sure the students learn their intention for their first draft is what matters most.

Conflict, tension, pacing, stakes, theme, character development, mood, tone, voice, dialogue, symbolism, imagery, resonance and showing the reader what’s important before it becomes important are the chess pieces in the back row that can make sweeping moves. The pawns in the front are description and exposition and language. They only move in one direction and have limited movement inherient in them, but can become one of the most important pieces on the board if played correctly.

Can a grandmaster win a game without bishops? Of course. Can they win a game against an equally matched opponent without bishops? Maybe. Can the average writer maintain their reader’s experience without using conflict? Highly debatable.

Even conflict isn’t the most important game piece. Tension will always be queen. A story doesn’t need conflict to work but it does need tension. And a story without tension from any kind of source is playing with just the reader’s experience.

Excluding foundational structures from your story and still hoping to sell it to a commercial market is like trying to win a game of chess against an equally matched opponent with fewer chess pieces. Writers argue they don’t want to play with all the pieces and then they try to play a standard chess game without any accomodations in strategy for having less to work with but trying to accomplish the same goal.

Each structure deliberately left out of the story makes it harder to finish the story with the reader’s experience on par with what a conventional story story can do with conventional elements. Today, when learners learns to write by being assured there are no rules, only the greatest among them will ever even realize that there are more foundational structures possible than the ones they knew how to use when they started.

Beginner players can win a game of chess with just pawns and a King. It’s just the least likely outcome of all the likely outcomes which includes an act of nature stopping the game mid-play. Thinking any complicated aspect of a storytelling that can significantly impact the reader’s experience is so unnecessary that it doesn’t need to be taught a necrotic, infectious way of thinking.

But it’s the current pedagogy of creative writing.

The Instructor Wall in front of Ira Glass’s Gap

When I first heard Ira Glass’s quote around seeing the difference between what a writer wants to produce and what they’re able with their current skillset described my own journey as a writer perfectly. The quote is twelve years old now and I don’t think it reflects the current state of how even writers with good taste learn.

The books I wrote in my Gap years were quick, fun and snappy. The more I wrote, the better I was at capturing not just what I saw happen but what I could make happen on purpose. I played with stakes until I could make matter whether the world was ending or if it was a relationship falling apart. Eventually, I learned how to do both of those things in the same story.

I’d learned from writers who didn’t think there are no rules didn’t mean no structural foundation of writing had to be learned. Today, modern creative writers, like Buffy’s vampires who all inevitably develop mad fighting skills, claw out of the dirt innately understanding not just how the foundational structures of fiction work, but they would use them in their fiction. If they chose to break the rules without ever having successfully learned how to follow them, they were just that good to begin with.

But the average writers who emerge somehow knowing the foundational structures well to never need to learn them are the writers that tend also tend to be the average MFA instructors. They can write just well enough to write beautiful prose and not well enough to live off the proceeds.

The wall is built with bricks all assuring learners that because Cannery Row didn’t have a lot of conflict, this Yet Another YA Dystopian Novel doesn’t need to have any aspect of that dystopian directly impacting the character’s life for more than a moment or two where it is easily settled in the next paragraph. She doesn’t even need to have a goal bigger than choosing which one of the two and she won’t need any character development to make it.

Ignore the fact that this YAYADN must compete with all the other YAYADNs in today’s YA Dystopian novel market, which is its own dystopia.

Each brick suggests that if great works can do X, no story needs X. The smartest thing a person can do is change their mind but how can a learner even contemplate they may be wrong when their peers and instructors compare their writing to great literature? If the writer intended to tell the reader what the character by having it brought up in a casual conversation, it is how it ever shall be.

Brick by brick, row by row, the Instructor Wall built up so high that even writers with good taste can’t see the difference between a story that shows characters mostly talking about great matters and a story that shows the great matters happening.

It’s to the point where writers with good taste can’t recognize that craft is important and MFAs teach that no Gap exists. The pedagogy is based on the only thing that matters is the writer’s first intention to any given idea.

If work is meant for a commercial market, the sag that a lack of conflict, tension or pacing creates without creating something even more interesting with structure but excluding the difficult parts. Artistic choice or creative missed opportunity, it will have a void that other stories intended for their market the slush pile won’t have. How the exceptional work broke the foundational structure is what provided the meaningful experience. The fact it was broken is not the exceptionality.

MFAs teach the reader’s experience must be sacrificed to author’s intention. It took years for me to learn that if I can’t wow the reader, I don’t. The slushpile only cares for the reader’s experience.

Learning techniques may not work for learners inside MFAs and out

My MFA is in talking about polishing techniques for stories that still mostly needed to figure out how conflict can be used internally and externally to create plot complications. I honestly thought the UBC just didn’t understand it wasn’t teaching anything.

Imagine my surprise when educational professionals honestly couldn’t tell the difference between a program that has set learning objectives and a program that was based purely on class participation. Looking back, the fact that 70% of the class mark came from the participation in it should have been a red flag.

We learned that if the author intended the first draft to be entirely made up of exposition, dialogue, and description, it ought to be. If the prose was nice, it was as good as a story as a rare work that showed a character attempting to change their fate in a work with thematic resonance that left the reader with a meaningful memory for having read it. Those two stories and those two writers were treated exactly the same.

Only one was written by someone who could use their craft to write a work with a character’s whose world felt lived in and whose choices mattered. The other was a story where the characters talked about their problems to other characters a lot.

It’s that first writer who can watch a Brandon Sanderson video about using setting to manipulate plot and character problems and think, “Okay. I see how that works.” They already knew how to create realistic settings in the most fantastical of places and they know how to manipulate character and plot. Figuring out how the two aspects can interplay is the only new thing learned.

The second writer, who can only record what the character sees, says and does, listens to the same video has one of two possibilities. If they’re lucky, they’ll nod along because of course, their writing does that already. When I read Writing the Breakout Novel, I genuinely thought I was doing everything Donald Maass talked about. Seven years later, I reread the book again and realized I didn’t know how to do any of it.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a powerful one. If that first writer honestly believes they’re already writing setting and character choices well, listening to Sanderson will only confirm their confirmation bias no matter how far their writing is from the Sanderson Ideal prose

It’s the writers that still struggle with the character’s actions to do what the author wants instead of what just happens on the page that are harmed the most when they’re told there’s an ideal way to write anything. They didn’t know how to manipulate choices but now they know that the setting should have an impact on what they already couldn’t do. Instead of giving them something to help them thread the needle better, the technique made the hole smaller and the thread thicker.

At best, techniques confirm the confirmation bias in the writer who still needs to learn. They think they’re already doing whatever is being shared because all they can do is filter the new information through the limited knowledge base. Techniques are refined knowledge, not shortcuts. Without knowing *how* to deliberately manipulate the text, learning how to manipulate plot, character and setting in a way that builds something bigger is even more difficult.

When the writer’s confirmation bias is confirmed, they write with confidence and that confidence occasionally pays off. A writer who is afraid of doing something wrong may never be able to accidentally do it right again.

Between MFAs not even trying to teach learners how to climb mountains if they weren’t already near-professional mountain climbers themselves and professional writers only sharing how to get up the last 5% of the peak, we’ve lost the ability to teach writing to learners who still need to learn.

There is no good answer to the question, “how do I write _____?” The only question writers who still need to learn the fundamentals should be asking is “How would I write _______?”

How much time do your characters spend in a neutral state?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what showing actually means for an upcoming article and along comes the perfect story to illustrate why showing is so important. It brought focus to a problem I’d been seeing inside and outside of my MFA for years.

Most unpublished fiction I’ve read, even if devastation is raining down on the heads of the protagonists, explores the range of human emotion between mildly annoyed, mildly alarmed and mildly content. Characters can be momentarily frightened, but the oppositional force that fright was caused by is usually resolved quickly. The average emotion expressed if spread over the word count is one of observer neutrality.

Donald Maass talks about macrotension and microtension in his book, The Fire in Fiction. Macrotension exists on the plot level. Will the heiress survive her fall to where the common folk survive in this particular YA dystopian novel? The reader will need to read on to find out. (Spoiler alert, she’s only alone for two paragraphs before love interest #2 and/or the threat love interest #2 chases off arrive.)

But microtension exists in the apprehension of the point-of-view characters as their actions may look to solve their immediate concerns but makes their situation more complicated as more plot is revealed. When the predominant method of story building the writer uses relies on dialogue instead of the character’s actions, keeping that microtension at the sentence level is infinitely more difficult.

The character in the moment of the now in the story is usually in a safe or a safe-for-now moment if they have time to such deep discussions. While they can be talking about anything plot-related, the task they have at hand is usually mundane at least to the character’s opinion of it.

When conflict arises in stories built on discussions, they’re more like jump scares in that there’s a momentary flash of alarm as the plot point reveals itself but it resolves quickly or it is just an alarming visual and the calm, cool conversation can continue. The plot point adds to the macrotension of the piece, but the new problem isn’t reflected in the microtension of the characters’ ‘now’ moment.

I think the metallic age of science fiction has passed. We’re into the gooey, fleshy age of it. The characters who populate our world have to do more than just experience its wonders. They have to live in it as well. In speculative fiction, the speculative nature of the story and the fiction aspect of the story should be as bonded as NaCl.

Aiming the story at the central theme in the rewrite using Robert J. Sawyer’s timeless thematic advice

I finished Kakotopia.prime yesterday. I started it in mid-October and finished it in mid-December and I couldn’t be happier with it. But I’m going to have to change a lot of it in the rewrite.

As soon as I finished it, I realized the central character didn’t solve the final issue with the growth that he’d learned over the course of the book. It’s an easy change to fix, but I’ll have to go back and change the outcome of one discussion that they had with another character that showed the growth prematurely. I may even try to swing a decision that goes south when he tries to make himself believe what he needs to believe by the end of the book in order to walk out of the room alive. The lingering doubt the first time has to make the situation worse.

Theme isn’t the moral of the story, it’s the compass. I learned that in an evening session I wasn’t even planning to go because it was a workday and I’d barely gotten finished in time. I don’t even think I ate dinner that night. The Sentry Box was only ten or so blocks from our apartment but they were ten blocks down one-way streets and some underpasses that only needed a Balrog to be scarier. But I was there that night for some reason and when Rob explained theme as the thing the character should to be against it that changed everything for me.

I learned it at a time in my writing career where I was starting to be able to show the reader what I wanted them to see and not just tell them all the cool things that had happened when the protag had just stepped out of the room/scene for a while. I’d been practicing showing the reader exactly what they needed to see for two years at that point but still hadn’t managed to write a story that was more than a character that did stuff. When I was breaking the rules, at least occasionally I’d managed to hit a story out of the park with raw talent and mute luck.

But even with that brilliant advice I’m sure a lot of writers could just write too, I still found it difficult to write to a theme I’d picked out for the story. I’m too much of a pantser to think that far ahead. But Steven King in On Writing talks about writing without a theme in mind only to pluck out what resonates from the text after the first draft is finished.

I use a combination of the two. Kakotopia’s central theme is not to serve power structures that don’t serve you when you have the freedom to resist no matter how deeply they’re disguised as cultural norms. It starts with a rigid code the character can’t break out of to being able to walk out of a room with his head held high where anyone with his history would have had to willingly die in on principle or have the decision he had to make break them.

But that theme only came to me after the work was over. I have to rewrite everything I do. My non-neurotypical brain thinks in perpetually run-on sentences and they scan as correct to me. With the fact I’m thinking two sentences ahead while typing the current one, words get missed. Verb tenses (much like House of Pain) jump around. But that’s just at the sentence level. My beginnings speed up in the rewrite. Things I only vaguely understood can be two-by-fourshadowed. I can echo past decisions in earlier ones so that when the right decision is made, it’s made on hard-earned knowledge. I can make everything that mattered in the first draft matter so much more in the second.

People ask me why I care so much about how bad my university as at teaching creative writing. It’s because they denied any graduate the ability to even think their prose may need to be rewritten because if their MFA tells them their work is perfect, they’re going to believe it (to borrow Taylor Swift’s Fifteen’s central premise.)

I gave up chess when it became less and less likely my Queen could sweep across the board like an avenging angel (or a weeping one) while I was playing against people who cheated by studied strategies. It took me ten years to learn how to make characters do the same thing and ten more to have that sweep matter on a thematic movement. There are a lot of sweeping attacks in this piece and I love each and every one of them.

And I look forward to tearing them apart and making them even sweepier.

They’re not rules. They’re structural considerations

There’s a lot of signal-to-noise ratio when it comes to what the pros say about story structure and what the amateur hears them say. Allow this system to remain unchallenged long enough and MFAs start teaching the noise and not the structure.

Show don’t tell for example is the prime directive of writing, but it’s just the title of the directive. Show don’t tell *means* show the reader what they need to understand about the world, character and plot developments.

In contrast, telling is a quick tool to finesse moving quickly from something that doesn’t matter to something that does. There could be times in any work when telling will be the most effective, most meaningful moment in the book but that comes well after the reader knows the world, the character and the plot. “The King is dead.” has a lot more resonance in Chapter 31 than it would in Chapter 1 when the reader is still thinking “Who he?”

So yes. There are no rules. But no, there are no shortcuts either. Structural functions of storytelling all maximize the chances that when your reader needs to care about what happens next, they will. That has absolutely no guarantee of happening because a character is just moving through a fictional world. The character has to move through the world and that movement has to matter to the reader.

And yet, go to any current critique circle and there’s a very good chance what’s being taught is “It’s okay to tell if you tell very well.”

In my MFA, there wasn’t a falsehood I believed as a writer who still needed to learn how to control the narrative in my fiction that wasn’t confirmed by the program. I, too, believed conflict was, at best optional when I couldn’t manipulate events to get in the way of my character getting what they wanted. If it didn’t naturally occur in the first draft, it somehow was never, ever needed. I believed this no matter how many times I was told that if I learned to manipulate the conflict, I’d always have a much stronger story for it.

There will always be fantastic work that is the exception to any rule. But just naming the exception is not teaching the author how to break that rule successfully themselves. For that learning to happen, one would have to break down *by the beat* how the exception pulled off the rule-breaking. Then, the learner would have to understand how that one exception manipulated the story structure to overcome the lack of it. How they’d learn to bend the same structure is up to them with that knowledge.

World War Z is a brilliant example of a told story through a pseudo-epistolary structure. The quick cuts back and forth between human beings forced to live through a global event through the lens of their country’s different responses to the zom-demic is brilliantly done. Epistolary novels suffer from the emotionally distancing fact that if the character is writing about the events, they survived them. World War Z establishes a world where surviving could have been the worst of all evils.

Does that mean every epistolary novel can overcome the challenges of the emotional distance between the events, the protagonist and the reader? Hell no. World War Z should be treated as the bar that needs to be beaten not the key that unlocks a lock.

Beware of anyone who tells you that if **brilliant example** can do it, you can, too. If they can’t teach you how to do it yourself, they’re not teaching you anything.

Setup Pays Off

Last night, I sat down and wrote a small scene. In it, the character needed a beat that said not only he knew where the character was being locked up, he knew who the character was with so the first character definitely had insider’s knowledge.

And I didn’t know who he was with at the time. I actually put ______ as a placeholder because I’d have to think about who would be significant in the story to be there that I’d already established, because, at 85k, Thou Shalt Not Introduce a New Character Who Only Matters for just this Story Alone. If I could think of anyone by Monday’s writing, I could delete the line as much as it would pain me.

I don’t outline. I can’t. If I outline a story from start to finish, I’ve already told it and I’m bored when I sit down to write it. But I take a sack of setup and spread it think and heavy over the beginning and just see what grows in it that I can harvest later. I don’t need to know why something is significant and I don’t know when I write something that doesn’t feel significant at the time that it’s going to be a load-bearing wall in the second half. I just write a character trying to solve their problems as the events they live through make matters worse.

All I need to start a story is a character with an interesting voice and a problem. Everything else that happens in the story, the character and I figure out together and then I go back and edit what happened is a clear path from the beginning while also making sure the characters at the start of the book are the characters at the end of the book minus all the character growth they’ve suffered through.

I write to snooker myself in the part of the day I’m not physically typing. I don’t know what’s in the bag the character finds. I don’t know why the two characters who didn’t know each other exchanged significant glances. I don’t even know what the antagonistic force wants in the story until I’m usually a third of the way through it at least.

I write to find out what happens. It’s a blast, even if each time I do it, I wonder if this is the time I’ll have to go back and delete there being a bag at all. But then all I need to do is brush my teeth and I know, obviously, it’s a sterilization unit with a sample from X in it. What else could it be?

Writing to engage the reader vs. writing to impress them

In the same way that I’m not sure who told writers starting out that writing a conventional story is so simple there is really no need to practice the conventions that make them up, it confuses me who told writers starting out that the thing that impresses readers is impressive prose.

Impressive prose in an impressive story that takes a character on a journey to the end of the story that delivers a story that gives the reader an enriching experience for having spent the time in the world is impressive. If the only impressive thing about the story is the prose itself, however, I’ve always wondered what emotional experience the author hopes the reader will leave their story with. Even if the prose is impressive in isolation, being impressed by a story’s prose isn’t the same thing as being moved by it.

While I saw a lot of this “impressive” prose in stories that were aimed at pleasing writing instructors during my degree, I see it in genre work all the time, too. Stories full of characters pontificating at each other, descriptions that have some truly inspired lines but not a character with a problem that lives in the world it paints, and exposition that would have told an excellent story had those events been what the story followed instead of the follow-up the events caused.

It took me a lot of years not to hear what I shouldn’t do as a writer and not open a can of beer so someone could hold it. It took me a lot of years to realize that the amount of effort required to write a story that’s only dialogue but still delivers to the reader the engaging experience that would fill the void of a character trying to change their fate could be used elsewhere to tell better stories. I’d have to do multiple revisions to ensure the structure of a story told through dialogue is not repetitive to the reader.

And that was before I realized that even if I pull the story off perfectly, it still has to compete with all the other perfectly told stories by industry professionals. If I’d known that, I’d put the beer back in the fridge.

Only the very best of the wittiest banter can carry a story where the character isn’t presented with or requires any opportunity to change. If that still makes a writer want to find someone to hold their alcoholic beverage, I’d like for them to consider what good witty banter can do to a story with a character who has to overcome what’s holding them back from what they have to do.

The DNA of Conflict in Speculative Fiction

You’d think from the way I talk about the teaching of creative writing that I believe the solution to writers who have the skill to bend the rules teaching writers who don’t have the skill to bend the rules that they, too, have the skills to bend the rules that the solution would be, teach the rules better. The fact that some writers in that group are good enough to bend the rules (and become teachers too) doesn’t change the fact that the only learning involved in teaching learners that exceptions disprove the need for structure is that most learners learn they don’t even need to learn what isn’t needed in the first place.

But the solution is not to teach the rules better. I joined the writing community in a time where everyone taught the rules better, and I didn’t learn a darn thing until I was ready to hear I needed to learn them. Thanks to twenty years of intuitive instructors teaching concrete learners how to learn like they did, every writer thinks following “the rules” can’t possibly help their story, no matter how much just showing the reader what they need to understand will help the story unfold organically instead of just being linking sections of description, exposition and dialogue.

Is it possible to write great stories that are just description, exposition and dialogue? Of course. Is it easy? Of course not. Is it easier than just setting a character at a moment in their life where if they don’t change, they can’t grow? Of course not. Is it a highly competitive field filled with the very best writers who are very good at writing description, exposition and dialogue in a way that almost does as much work as a character wanting to change something they don’t like about themselves, their world or their path in life then sets out to do so?

Absolutely, yes.

There are so many different aspects in a character’s life that conflict can come from. Character versus themselves, a time limit, a deeply held belief, the environment, other characters and the speculative nature of the story itself are the asparagine, glutamine, histidine, lysine, proline, and threonine of speculative work. Yet I’ve read thousands of stories in my life in my MFA program and out that had a character who never has any doubt that they’ll succeed at the thing they’re doing succeeds at the thing they’re doing. If a character starts with a problem that they don’t have a doubt in their mind they can’t beat or even have a realistic chance of failing, where’s the conflict? If an unpleasant thing happens to an unpleasant protagonist, who feels the schadenfreude? If the character never had a chance to escape or change their fate, what other feeling is the reader supposed to have but a feeling of inevitability?

All those stories can be done well. But they have to be done extremely well to even compete with the already large group of writers who can all tell a story on rails very well. And all to fill the absence created in a story that doesn’t have a character the reader can invest their time in to see if their best efforts are good enough to overcome the challenge they’re facing where failure feels like a real option. If there’s no doubt they will succeed or fail from the start of the story, where does the tension come from?

The rules of writing are dead. It’s time we start respecting the ingredients of a good story enough to learn how to use them effectively each time, every time. I get that there’s a feeling in the writing community that thinks conventional stories are easy and that true art exists in the unconventional. And again, I’m not arguing the concept.

But a learner can learn how to write a conventional story. They have to teach themselves how to write an unconventional one. A child has to teach themselves to self-ambulate before can try to learn how to fly and there’s nothing easy about learning to self-propel your body through space for the first time in all the different ground-based gaits. Not even trying to learn the foundations of the crawl, walk and run before trying to throw oneself onto the ground and missing seems like the absolute worst way of trying to learn how to do anything.

So forget the rules. Learn the ingredients. And conflict is the egg of the story. It provides the easiest form of structure but there are ways to work around their lack. I can teach you how to cook the best French souffle possible and even if it doesn’t work, you’ll still have yummy cheesy eggs. If you want to learn how to bake an eggless souffle, though, you start by studying the techniques while you practice the steps multiple times or be willing to fail until your end result is an eggless souffle.