Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Food Can Convey a Character's Mood and Setting

If you're a writer and you've never thought too hard about what your characters eat, perhaps it's time for you to pull up a chair at your protagonist's dinner table. A character's food tells a wealth of information about who she is: the region of the world in which she lives, her time period, her financial status, her personal tastes, her health, her cultural background.

Moreover, how she eats can convey her mood and situation. Imagine a starving little boy in a war-torn world eating one of the tomatoes pictured in the photo above. How would his actions and attitude toward the food differ from those of a confident villain taking a bite in the comfort of his lair? What if a woman in a white wedding dress were approaching the drippy scarlet food? Or an explorer from the ancient frozen tundra who's never seen a tomato before in his life?

In reality, the tomatoes in the photograph were sitting in a bowl on my kitchen table, and my math teacher husband will more than likely be the one chomping into them. If you're writing a scene about a man hurriedly devouring his lunch in a teacher's lounge, the tomatoes will turn into something entirely different than the meal of a starving little boy or a confident villain.

This week at The Lucky 13s, our theme is "Dinner with our characters: What's on the menu in our books?" I'm offering a sneak peek at my protagonist's 1918 life by asking you to have a seat with her in her kitchen. As you'll learn from what's NOT on the menu, life wasn't easy in the fall of that particular year, and what you cooked back then could have saved your very life.

Here's my Lucky 13s post:


Speaking of food and writing, at the end of this week, I'm running a workshop for fifth to eighth graders at a career fair. If you're one of my students signed up for my sessions, keep this post in mind. We'll be using food to learn about sensory writing, and we'll explore different characters' approaches to a piece of seemingly ordinary piece of fruit. Don't come hungry. You may find your stomach growling.

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