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Let's Talk About A Character's Food Choices


Screenshot of Reedsy Blog of Character Questions
Screenshot of Reedsy Blog

When I started writing in earnest, I found a lot of advice online about character development. There were a multitude of considerations to think about. What was their appearance like? What was their reaction when faced with a negative situation? What is their opinion on dogs? An author can arrive at these answers by going through a list of questions or if that’s a little dull, there’s always the option of a character interview (this is what I prefer).


An often inquiry on these lists is the character’s favorite food. Usually, it’s tucked into a sneakily into an endless list of other questions, which means it can be overlooked and not considered wholly necessary. Think about it. How often is a character’s favorite food written into a story? Let’s not include stories revolving around food.


Personally, I rarely see a character’s favorite food as a prominent part of the day-to-day that happens inside their adventure. It’s possible that I overlook it, especially if I’m drawn into a story, but I think there’s an unspoken rule amongst writers to not write about basic needs. A lot of it is due to ensuring that stories do not become too bogged down with insignificant details. It’s safe to assume that most readers infer basic needs being met. I know I do it.


But...


gussied up mac n' cheese
Photo by Karolina Kołodziejczak on Unsplash

I’d like to submit that these insignificant details should become more prominent in writing. I have long considered myself a foodie. “Try anything once” is my motto with food, and it’s led me to some tasty dishes. I’ll admit, though, I am a sucker for mac n’ cheese and if there’s some gussied up version of that, you better believe I’ll be ordering it... and anything else that catches my fancy. Here’s my point. If I love food, it’s absolutely plausible for characters to love food as well, so why shouldn’t I include it in the story? I’ll add a caveat here and say that a character may not love food, but I argue that it’s a specific choice and significant to the story.


Now, there is a difference between writing about a hunk of cheese and bread. Trail rations are sustenance, and I wouldn’t (personally) consider them a favorite food. If you feel the need to write about trail rations to simply paint a picture, skip it. However, if the trail rations help you describe the character’s feelings, then by all means go for it.

I digress. Let’s get back to a character’s favorite food and how to incorporate it into your writing. In my story, Kiira loves seafood, which is a specialty of the Cook Master in her kingdom of Lorea. At the wedding feast, she has a coconut cream soup with braised tender venison. This might seem like an odd combination, and maybe so, but the idea I was attempting to convey was combining two things that are opposite on the food spectrum and create something new (did I just sound too much like Remy from Ratatouille?).



A Seafood Stew
Photo by Do mee on Unsplash

I came up with this recipe because I first envisioned a hearty stew, something I imagined I’d find in the Kingdom of Klynotia. It’s a kingdom hemmed in by mountains, so venison is common and is a standard fare for most citizens. Then I wanted to include a unique flavor that would be found in the more tropical kingdom of Lorea. (Side note: it’s not fully tropical like Hawaii, for example, but it does have some similarities, including coconut palms.) My thoughts drifted to the sauces often found in Indian food. I ended up describing the dish as being soup-like, so it can still be eaten as a hearty soup. Now that I think about it, I do not remember if I included the other ingredients. That’s something I’ll have to fix on a rewrite. Anyway, this dish is the favorite for Kiira at her wedding feast. She even tries to steal some extra from her brother!


Honestly, it’s amazing where the mind of a writer can go. In another post, I wrote about how food is integral to me in my writing. I love all varieties of food (except liver and onions—yuck!). In book two, Kiira and Terren attend another feast, but the food differs completely from the food of their kingdoms. I have a lot of fun describing the dishes. At some point, I’d love to create a recipe book that is a companion to my novel, just because I love food so much.


If you'd like to read about the dish I described, click on the picture below to get your copy of Heart today!


Heart Book by T.J. Fisher

Until next time, Fictionados!



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