Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Monday, 15 March 2010

The sausage fork - an update

Sausages curl when fried, making it difficult to brown them on four sides. The Bonden Sausfork, knocked up at a cost of £15 by a local fabricator, solves the problem. The sausages are slid longitudinally on to the fork tines; no extra piercing is needed since the sausages already have a hole at each end. To rotate the sausages use a pair of wooden spatulas.

The Sausfork shown is Version 2. It differs from Version 1 in that the tines are wide enough apart to take bratwursts. Should one brown four sides? From a gustatory point of view, possibly not. Aesthetically it’s essential. Take-up is unlikely to be dramatic. Virtually everyone who comments on Works Well already has too many kitchen appliances.

WANT TO WRITE A NOVEL? Then you could face this sort of problem. Hatch, at a moment which will change his career and (if I feel like it) his life, designs and creates a fairly simple mechanical system. The system’s components, their function and their raison d’etre are open to scrutiny by the plot. Should I describe the system in detail so that the reader understands it fully (and thereby risk inserting a passage that could have been ripped from an instruction manual) or take an arty-flighty approach which may leave the reader in the dark? The answer is I should be writing about a poet or a teacher rather than a production engineer.

Novel progress 17/3/10.Ch. 17: 2299 words. Chs. 1 - 16: 73,302. Comments: Clare admits to a dark side.


christopher said...


There is a reason that people shy away from production engineers.

I try to leave that stuff at work.

However, years ago The Whole Earth Catalog showed that there is a readership for technical catalogs, at least in America, so I would suggest that the other answer is a really interesting widget. You authors have many hats to wear. Now you have to be a credible inventor too.

Oddly enough, I have a friend, an old high school chum, and he is in what he calls the galley proof stage of his novel headed for Amazon in May.

I have the 25.4 conversion factor completely ingrained in me by my work. I think it amusing that the English system has held sway here while you Brits have moved on.

Sir Hugh said...

Why not describe him making this thing (with perhaps the attendant problems) or the same for whoever makes it on his behalf? Such a description could then be slanted in various different ways rather than just having a mundane description.

Plutarch said...

You should describe the system in as much detail as you need, provided that you make it as entertaining as you have proved you can. You could, for example, introduce some dramatic tension into the description ie weave in a bit of narrative eg reveal in the mechanism something that is relevant to the plot. There are opportunities, too, for irony in the was way system functions (or is meant to function) which resonates or clashes with Hatch's situation.

Rouchswalwe said...

Wouldn't version 2 be more properly dubbed the Bonden Bratfork? You could offer a pint glass as an incentive to purchase one. (I am all for crispy Brats.)

marja-leena said...

Oh, that 'bratfork' reminds me of a BBQ tool we have stashed away somewhere, except it has a long handle. I don't think we've ever used it.

Now we can add inventor to novelist, poet, blogger, journalist, etc.! I second Plutarch's suggestions for your character.

Barrett Bonden said...

All: I deliberately condensed the novel-writing query to its essence; however this has sent some of you off on a wild-goose chase and I apologise for that. Hatch's device is, as I say, fairly simple but finds itself in an odd application (imagine an egg-beater introduced into a voodoo ceremony). It is there to prove that Hatch is capable of lateral thought. Unfortunately if it were an egg-beater I would merely label it as such with no further explanation necessary. But because the device is more likely to be found in a physics lab and because it is not itself a complete entity, it does need some techie description.

Christopher: Yes, but they also shy away from paedophiles and mass murderers, yet books get written about these types. Your reference to technical catalogues is one of those decorations to be found on the frontier that separates the war of the sexes: a couple may enter a soft goods store and immediately the male half starts yawning; that same couple may enter a DIY store and the male pokes around the tools with interest (yet with no thought of buying) while the woman begins to fidget.

Your phrase "25.4 conversion factor" baffled me at first and it was Mrs BB who provided the key. Indeed (and how ironic) Americans will continue to be custodians of the imperial sytem of measurements for ever and a day. And what about this: on expressways, etc, there are signs which say "Picnic area - 1000 feet". Why the use of the smaller unit?

Sir Hugh: He makes a mock-up in cardboard to explain the principle to a group of non-techies. Thereafter he specs the parts in more durable materials for later assembly.

Plutarch: I think you've hit upon the key. The nuts and bolts should be turned into fun. Retaining the clarity may be a delicate matter but I see possibilities.

RW (zS): Bratfork is far more euphonious word. In mentioning take-up I wasn't aiming to sell the thing. I provided the specs so that anyone interested to have it made up. But when the subject was raised earlier more than one responder pointed out the problems associated with accumulating dedicated as opposed to generalised kitchen appliances.

M-L: You didn't use it because you don't like fried sausages (possibly fried anything). I believe you boil your franks. Which is fair enough for franks but would bring about something hideous with British sausages.

christopher said...

Ummm, equating engineers with pedophiles (Am. sp.) and mass murderers seems a touch extreme. I might comment, however, that sometimes the tedium and pressure can invite one to go postal. (That is an American idiom for extreme responses to workplace desperation) :D

Hattie said...

Have him try to get through about his device to a total arm-crossing skeptic (or sceptic, as you would spell it). Lots of dialogue. Could be very funny.
I just spent some time with an engineer, and his total inability to think the way I do really made me laugh. Did not make him laugh, however.

Avus said...

I have dedicated my latest post to you - an idea for the al fresco sausage BBQ

Lucy said...

Your alphabetical proximity to Avus on the blogroll caused me a momentary sense of deja vu.

The flooding of the market with bamboo-based products courtesy of the PRC has a few benefits, notably bamboo cooking tongs, which should be more effective than spatulas for the rotating job. I'll pass on the bratfork (sounds like a device for poking refractory and unpleasant children, I suppose it could double as that too...) since French sausages are not generally popular round here, so we wouldn't find much use for it.

I think I'm inclined to say include the detail for the novel, authenticity always works well, I think, though the key I suppose is to weave it seamlessly into the narrative, rather than have it just as a kind of bolted-on bit of self-conscious proving that you know whereof you write. Actually, I think historical novelists are often most guilty of this, so you get passages of goody-two-shoes look-how-well-I've-done-my-research boring historical detail then back to ripping bodices. Not that I read those kind of books often you understand.

CV is 'reflow', which must surely be a term from hydraulics or some other form of applied physics.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: I appreciate the dedication, my second in a week. But the ideas are not in competition. Mine's strictly in-fresco.

Lucy: I take your point about historical novels (which neither of us ever read, God forbid). Gobbets of undigested research. At least I avoided that since the problem relates to a technical idea which might or might not be difficult to get across but which does propel the plot. Bamboo tongs sound as if they may well provide the answer to sausage rotation but at the cost of adding yet another appliance to the already over-stuffed drawer. Spatulas we already have.

Avus said...

Many historical novels are utter rubbish, but there are some worthwhile authors who have done their meticulous research. Mary Renault on ancient Greece is a particular favourite.
I am just half-way through "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel (Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey, et al.) she won the 2009 Man Booker Prize for it. Superbly written and researched.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: Ah, but does the research come in undigested gobbets? (See above) Rhetorical question; Mrs BB is a great Hilary Mantel fan from way back and I'd have heard by now if it was her failing.

My blogonym comes from a 20-strong series of historical novels based on a massive amount of research. The most persuasive element centres on the quite different forms of speech uttered by Capt. Jack Aubrey (Naval officer, English country stock, strong admixture of naval jargon, generally sunny disposition) and Stephen Maturin (Ship's doctor and enthusiast for the natural sciences, Irish with - I think - Spanish mother, multilingual, Bonaparte-hating spy for the English). Their conversational exchanges and widely differing temperaments are at the heart of the series and are its greatest pleasure.