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Monday, March 21, 2016

Diet and Food - Character ER




I am on Unicorn Bell today with Dear Lazy Writer
Do you think writing/publishing is too much work?


Something that writers don’t often think about is their character’s diet. But why not? Food is a big part of our lives. We need it to survive. We eat an average of three meals a day with mid-day and nightly snacks.

I’m sure your characters have eaten something during the course of your story. If they haven’t, give them a sandwich because they are starving! :P With that said, you don’t have to be so diligent as to describe each and every meal. That would be overkill, but an occasional breakfast, lunch or dinner date would be nice. And some readers actually really enjoy reading descriptions of food. I am one of them.

One thing I wanted to discuss was vegetarians (a person who doesn’t eat meat) and vegans (a person who doesn’t eat meat or diary including milk and cheese). I have never come across a vegetarian or vegan character. I’m sure there are some out there but I haven’t found them.

When I became a vegetarian, I turned Avrianna Heavenborn (introduced in Ghost of Death and the MC in my unpublished series) into a vegetarian. I did it because she took after me in many ways and I wanted her to be different from all the other characters out there.


Now you don’t have to have a vegetarian or vegan character in your book just because I say so. In fact, there are many other diets out there that your characters could have instead such as: diabetic, glutton-free, Kosher, Weight Watchers, high protein, no-carb, detox diets, and juicing.

Then there is specific diets for certain religions such as Hindu and Buddhist, fasting for a medical procedure or Ramadan, and Lent. A character could give up something they love such as chocolate coffee for Lent.

You don’t even have to use a diet like these but simply talk about what your character eats. Maybe your MC has a craving for cheesecake or has a fetish for orange soda.

Including a diet can make your character different, and talking about what your character likes to eat can add something fun to your story.

Taking this a step further...if you have zombies in your story then right about that cannibalism. Yum?




QUESTIONS: Have any of your characters had a specific diet or fetish for a food or drink? As a reader, do you like food descriptions? 


If you’re participating in the A to Z Challenge, can you share the blurb, image and links for Seismic Crimes on its release day (April 22nd which is for S). I don't expect anyone to have a theme to fit my book, just to maybe add it to the bottom as a bonus S. :)




74 comments:

  1. I would love to add the blurb on the 22.

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  2. I do enjoy good food descriptions. Have you read Calvin Trillin? He has some great books about traveling and food.

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    1. No, I haven't. I'll have to look his books up.

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  3. Food is a nice regional placement tool--people from this place or that eat differently. Annie, in my cozy series, is vegetarian. Cam, my MC, sometimes gets caught in the middle of her meat-loving boyfriend and her vegetarian BFF so there are a few humor moments about it.

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  4. I like food descriptions if they're about sumptuous feasts or if it's something unusual, like a special holiday food, a delicacy, etc. I don't need a play by play of an ordinary turkey sandwich. :)

    Excellent point about characters having to be on or choosing to be on certain diets!

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  5. Check out the comedy of the Graham Norton Show with Tucci! It is so funny how they talk about food! This is comedy and food! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbKsR-Nq8KU

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  6. Now in the books I'll be reading in the future, I'll have to make note to read if they do include what the characters enjoy eating or what type of diet they might follow. My daughter in law shared a house for a bit with a vegan. It was hard for her to really cook anything because the vegan was so anti this, anti that. She and son were just dating at the time and I got used to making meals for four instead of three and he often took "leftovers" over to her. Not condemning any diet people choose, just relating that experience (who knows, could be used in a story down the line)

    betty

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    1. I'm a vegetarian. I don't restrict myself as a vegan would, and I still eat seafood, but for others not used to it, it can be a challenge at first. My family is used to it now. :)

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  7. What a wonderful post and good reminder of a way to enrich our work. Yes! I include food as a textural object in my fiction novels. Many of my characters like soul food and some have other favs, like Aussie Food.

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    1. Soul food. Yum. Aussie food though...I don't know much about that. I'll have to look into it. I always like to try a new cuisine. As long as I can find vegetarian alternatives. ;)

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  8. I'm not as good with food descriptions. Except that on a spaceship, they are often bland.

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  9. Yep, I'm signed up for S day already.
    You have a good thought regarding food and food descriptions. I think even if I don't use it, I should amend all my character sheets (something I do when I write) to include their favourite and least favourite foods.
    I do talk about food in the YA series. As High School kids, lunch is an important part. Some like Spaghetti Day. Some do not, for several reasons. :)

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    1. I had sent everyone who signed up for S Day an email on Saturday. Check for it. :)

      Knowing a character's favorite and least favorite food is a good character building strategy.

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  10. I can't say I stuck them on certain diets, unless you count the few I went all meta and used myself lol

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    1. Some characters don't need diets. :)

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  11. Despite the fact I'm a vegan, I've never written about a vegetarian character. Whipped cream factored into two character's lives but I'm not saying why. LOL

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  12. I've tried vegetarian, but the town I lived in was small and their section was horrible and made it difficult. It was before buying food online was really a thing too. Plus, we were poor.

    Anyways, I don't often have my characters eat. Usually it's breakfast if they are. LOL

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    1. I became a vegetarian when I was going through tough money problems. It worked for me. :) Your characters must be starving. LOL! JK ;)

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  13. I always include food in my books, because I love to write about it. Since most of my novels take place in foreign countries, it helps with setting as well.

    There are vegetarians in one of my latest books, but it's not focused on very much. It's a great idea for a character.

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    1. I'm so glad more vegetarian characters are coming out!

      I think food is so much fun to write about. :)

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  14. I do enjoy food descriptions when I'm reading. One of my characters had an obsession with Nutrigrain Bars and another with cheap wine. It's a great characterization tool.

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    1. It is a great characterization tool! :)

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  15. You made me think back to that movie, Tom Jones and then When Harry Met Sally. Remember those eating scenes? I think having characters with food interests and showing them enjoying eating can really enhance a story and add so much to the character.

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  16. I love giving menu listings when foreign cuisine is involved (e.g., Persian, Armenian, Georgian, Russian, Hungarian), and used to love listing all the foods eaten at picnics and barbecues. Since I personally don't have secular, assimilated Jewish characters, but only characters who are religious to varying degrees, of course all my Jewish characters keep kosher at different levels. Then there's the issue of how religious Orthodox Christians have many fast days and seasons, the strictest of which are Advent and Great Lent. I also have a number of vegetarian and vegan characters, though the options for either diet were rather limited until fairly recently in history, at least in the Western world.

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    1. I can't help listing foods or detailing dinners. I'm glad you have vegan and vegetarian characters!

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  17. In Murder & obsession I have a female detective with a big desire for a good hamburger and have one scene where she orders and they discuss over the meal and another where she's drinking to forget. Love those scenes that involve food and conversation.

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    1. Food and conversation are fun scenes. I love the one with Avrianna and Rainer after they take down the 86er. ;)

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  18. Hi Chrys - no wonder cheese features full and flourishing in your life - good thing you're not a vegan! I like reading about dishes characters eat ... adds something to the story line .. cheers Hilary

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    1. I think you might be thinking about Crystal Collier with that cheese. ;)

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  19. Yeah characters hardly eat enough in books. Pretty sure the only wip I have characters eating multiple times is my flesh eater series. That's so wrong. There is even tongue and not the kissing kind. Ugh! Something is very wrong with me.

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    1. Ha. Flesh eaters. It's hard not to talk about that...it's their main function.

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  20. My characters eat in scenes occasional. I generally don't go into great detail on it, though.

    I'm a fan of a detective series where the main character loves to cook these elaborate meals (or maybe they only seem elaborate because all my cooking is done in the microwave...) and eats out a lot, and always has donuts or muffins from the coffee place in the morning. But it's done well, so you know the characters are well fed, but you're not thinking that you're reading a cooking show novel instead.

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    1. At least they're eating! ;)

      Yes, it has to be done right so readers aren't buried under eating or food descriptions.

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  21. I recall Rowling added descriptions of food the students ate because she remembered how much she enjoyed reading about foods when she was younger. And although I'm not sure fetish is the right word, but I do love orange soda.

    I'm not participating in the A to Z challenge this year, but I'd be happy to mention the release on the 22nd.

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    1. I love that Rowling did it because she loved reading about food when she was younger.

      Thank you, Ken!

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  22. The only book I had to pay attention to diet was in my historical. I had to research what kinds of food was available at that time.

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    1. For different eras, or cultures, food research is a must.

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  23. Nope, I'm not a fan of food descriptions. I'm not a fan of most description, really. And on days when I don't eat, food descriptions are annoying. (Speaking of various diets, there's the 5/2 one...)

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    1. Days you don't eat? Well that's not good.

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  24. My young characters have traipsed barefoot through the desert eating bean burros,shared quesadillas near a river, enjoyed a few PBJs and one was accused of stealing fresh tortillas. Come to think of it, I could have written them as chubby, though busy children seldom are;-)

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    1. That's cute. Sounds like they love Mexican food. Yum.

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  25. Love this post! There are a ton of food descriptions in my WIP. I had to research how to make fresh pasta for it, and I also created a cupcake recipe that I now make usually every year for Valentine's Day.
    I don't think I've ever come across a vegetarian or vegan character in a book or in my own writing.

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    1. I've always wanted to know how to make fresh pasta. And it's neat you came up with a cupcake recipe. When you publish your book, you can include it in the back. :D

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  26. I have been a vegetarian for years. I got into it because my husband grew up vegetarian and when we married, I didn't feel like cooking two different meals. Then I fell in love with vegetarian menus.

    One thing I've enjoyed while writing my middle grade series based in Victorian England is researching the menus for the meals that my protagonist would have eaten -- and how to cook them! (There's a cook in the series, and she's always preparing meals, because it was an all day job in those days.)

    I've never participated in the A-Z challenge, but I'm always so impressed by those who do. Hats off. It seems a daunting challenge.

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    1. I've been a vegetarian for 8 years. :)

      Victorian meals would be fun to research.

      I'm not doing the Challenge this year. Last year was too hectic with two releases and this year is shaping up to be more hectic, so I'm glad I decided to take a blog break for April.

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  27. This is a good reminder Chrys. I love to read about charcter's eating habits :P I like those scenes in your stories as well. I'm wondering if I have enough of those in my short story collection. In fact, in the netflix series House OF Cards, Robin Wright's character (claire) NEVER eats. It makes her somehow inhumanor robotic. So, maybe if your character is a cold, creepy psychopath, you wouldn't want to write about his eating as that would humanize him.

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    1. When I read and critique your 3 stories, I'll look for food opportunities. ;) But you're right...not eating for a villian is a bit creepy. Unless they're eating body parts....

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  28. Hi, Chrys,

    Yes, I love using food in my writing. I always have my characters eating something. Since I write m/g and YA, I limit to mostly fast type food, etc. But I do have scenes where the food is more elaborate such as a sweet sixteen birthday party, etc.

    Sadly, I really don't have time for the A-Z this year, but I will be buzzing by many of my favorite blogger pals...

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    1. I'm not doing the Challenge either. I have a lot of other things to do, but I'll also try to stop in to see what blogger buddies are doing.

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  29. Great post :) The PI in my mystery story, The Stacked Deck has a penchant for bourbon, but other than that, I've never used food or drinks much in a story ~Lori~

    Lori @ As the Fates Would Have It
    Lori @ Promptly Written

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    1. PIs do tend to have a penchant for some kind of booze. ;)

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  30. Oh food is not my strong suit...except chocolate. What if someone died in. Vat of chocolate. Talk about tasty. Ok yuck but maybe it is some sicko who likes to dip his victims in chocolate. It's late and that's why I sound loony

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    1. Ew. Now I can't look at chocolate in the same way. lol

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  31. Very good point...I do not think I hardly ever read anything about a character's diet. Never thought of it before. Interesting.

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    1. One series I can recall that does it well is the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.

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  32. One of my characters had a food allergy. It nearly cost him his life. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. Allergies is something I'll talk about later. ;)

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  33. I don't think I've made any of my characters follow a specific diet, but I do let them eat. :-)

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  34. Haven't thought too much about my character's diet but I do have them eating. My MC has just moved to a new town not too far from colonial Williamsburg. And on an outing/tour with her new friend she tries homemade ice cream colonial style for the first time. Now I'm thinking I should elaborate more on it.

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    1. What's in the ice cream? What's the texture like? The flavor? I'm getting excited! Haha.

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  35. Well that's a fun thought. What do zombies eat? Braaaains. lol

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  36. Eating is good. I like to eat and so do my characters. I write YA so their diet habits are not the best...

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  37. Great post Chrys, I will be revealing my fourth book in the next week or so. Just had a copy of the proof book and hopefully will be on sale soon.
    Yvonne.

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