Soup For Nuts
Chicken Soup for the Dummy's Soul
By Cecil Bothwell

Ever anxious to diminish the "free" part of my freelance career, I am keenly tuned to the drumbeat of pop culture; ear to the rails - so to speak - listening for the Next Big Train. So it has not escaped my notice that the "Chicken Soup" book series now has over 40 titles in print, and every new offering includes works by dozens of authors. The publishers plan to continue releasing six titles each year for the foreseeable future! Aha!

Meanwhile, the ace reporter in me has noted that the "... for Dummies" series has sold more than 100 million books on every subject imaginable. Hmmm.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to make mayonnaise out of those eggs, even if he has to mix a few metaphors to travel that road less taken - if you get the nail I'm driving at.

It is clear that authors of Chicken Soup (C.S.) stories will soon number in the thousands: the time is ripe for a how-to manual "for the rest of us." (Not that the rest of us are actually dummies. We just feel like dummies when we shell out twenty bucks for a book to make us feel better about ourselves, and discover that the primary result is feeling twenty bucks poorer.)

So here it is: The Fun and Easy Way to write about soothing souls.

First off, note that C.S. is, itself, a metaphor. We aren't talking about dead poultry and thick yellow lipids in your pans and arteries. C.S. hearkens to the notion that a cup of warm, greasy, salty broth, usually as prepared by an Iconic Mother (I.M.), makes a human happy. Or, happier, at any rate.

The power of the C.S.I.M. metaphor emanates from hundreds of millions of years of genetic selection.

Our ancestors were a lean and hungry bunch. Most of the food that was easy to catch was low fat and high fiber: rutabagas, for example, are a slow and relatively unclever prey. The somewhat smarter and faster food items were also pretty ungreasy. Beetles, say, or their juicy larvae.

Protein, yes. Fat? Not enough to grease a pea.

Even after our species discovered the club, which forever changed our relationship to food with the onset of membership fees, contentious monthly meetings, and the stunningly popular rubber chicken tetrazini, most of the fare was pretty lean. The male Neanderthals' Sportsman's Club would go out hunting for weeks at a time only to return, belching, with soup bones and pemmican for the wife and kids, and convoluted excuses about why they had been gone so long.

But there was one source of soothing, fatty food shared by all, however briefly. Mom's milk. Not only was it a great source of nutrition, it was delivered to us while we were held in Mom's arms, wrapped in a rabbit skin: safe and secure. No wonder warm lipids make us smile! This is warmth and fuzziness writ large!

So, to create your own "C.S. for the ... Soul," all you have to do is think up a descriptive collective noun, and then think of a story that says "warm" and "fuzzy" and "greasy" to that group.

F'rinstance, suppose you want to offer "Chicken Soup for the Drug Dealer's Soul," you would concoct narratives involving unenforceable laws proscribing victimless crimes which guarantee high profits for producers while diverting money from effective addiction treatment programs in order to build prisons. See? You can let your imagination run wild. It doesn't matter if the scenario is completely improbable in a modern and rational culture like our own. The idea is to create a fictive world for your target audience in which every detail is soothing.

On another tack, if your working title is "C.S. for the Despot's Soul," you could spin endearing tales about soft money campaign funding, packed judicial bodies, tax breaks for trans-national companies, unregulated wiretaps, hidden cameras, and secret military tribunals. I know these ideas may sound far-fetched to you and me, but there are people out there who go all soft inside thinking about this stuff. And a C.S. story doesn't have to be believable to make it in the mass market, it just needs to appeal to the Right Folks!

So there you go! Collective noun, warm and greasy, bingo! Your Mama would be proud.