A Banquet for the Characters

February 2, 2010 at 5:26 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , )


My characters don’t eat meals anywhere near often enough in my stories. I guess nothing overly interesting happens while they are eating because it doesn’t seem to be a focus point. However, they do eat frequently while walking or just have a snack and I’ve noticed that almost all of my characters are addicted to sugar. Particularly chocolate.

So I’ve decided to sit all my characters that I am currently trying to work with down and to have a banquet.

The problem being that as soon as the first course (chicken and corn soup with sweet bread) was served I had two rival factions throwing the bread at each other from across the room and about a dozen minor altercations breaking out at various tables. Clearly sitting all my characters down and feeding them wasn’t going to work if I actually wanted to find out what food they would eat.

Having called security to run all these rampant characters out of the room I decided to just have a few of the main characters at the table with very strong security forces lining the walls and a clear sign reading  ‘no violence’ on the table. They didn’t like it but they did try the soup.

The main antagonist of the story told me that soup was not suitable food for someone of her station and the bread was far too dry. After one mouthful she pushed it aside with a sniff.

Most of the other characters ate it and when asked their opinion shrugged. They didn’t really care. They had other things to worry about than food.

That might be why food does not get a lot of time in my books. The characters have a few other concerns.

How do you work with food? Do you worry about it? Is it important to your story?

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15 Comments

  1. Corra McFeydon said,

    It isn’t important unless it pushes the story forward. It can always be used as setting, I reckon. I’m ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ right now, and they gather for dinner often (given the time period and castle setting), but the story is always centered on the characters and the plot.

    from the desk of a writer

  2. lbdiamond said,

    Interesting!! My characters (my MC, her younger brother, and their mom) often come together at the dinner table or breakfast nook because that’s how I get all three of them together in the same room at the same time. Otherwise, it’s like herding cats. Subsequently, their eating all the time!!! Of course, my MC has a new craving for tuna fish–foreshadowing of things to come…

    Great post!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I did have one story where the characters used to come together for breakfast fairly regularly. It was a good chance to get them all in the same scene. The problem was that I never found it a particularly interesting scene.

  3. Nikki Hahn said,

    Yeah, I guess characters should eat in the story…lol. Actually, I have a scene in mine where my heroine misses a required banquet because she is miffed her royal parents are making her marry a complete stranger (keeping in mind she just met her parents when she crossed over from present time to the third dimension–a dimension that is currently nameless). If I sat down the two men, the mysterious evil presence, and all the other main characters in the story around a banquet table someone would indeed be turned into a lizard or a frog and maybe some swords might be drawn…can’t anyone get along anymore?

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      It probably wouldn’t be interesting if all the characters could got along.

  4. Carol Kilgore said,

    My characters eat. in the manuscript I’m querying, it opens inside a Mexican cate owned by one of the secondary characters. So food plays a part in the story. In my WIP, it’s not quite as important, but it’s set along the Texas Gulf Coast so Texas food and seafood are included more to set the scene than as plot.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      That would certainly increase the importance of food and being around food.

  5. Crystal said,

    You had me laughing out loud at your characters’ reactions to their “meal!” What a great post!

  6. twaddleoranything said,

    For some reason, descriptions of food/meals in my writing often turn out awkwardly, and thus often end up being cut. Sometimes the most ordinary of events can be the most difficult to capture on paper!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I think I just find meals confining because when the significant conversation or whatever is over the meal kind of goes on – or you do what they do on television and all walk out without having stayed long enough to eat anything which is just weird.

  7. vvdenman said,

    My characters have trouble remembering to eat as well. When they do, I use the food as a means to describe something else. For instance, Ruthie put a few scrambled eggs on her plate, but Jack added more. Later he glanced to see if she was eating them. Since Ruthie was struggling with depression, Jack’s actions showed his care and concern. I try to avoid having my characters eat just for nurishment. 🙂

    I also forget to write in the weather. If I’m not careful, my work is completely devoid of it.

    Loved reading about your banquet. Thanks for the entertainment and for startiing the conversation.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I usually have to edit out weather. I guess I’m a fan of sky gazing and I need to remember that the rest of the world does not find it as fascinating as I do sometimes.

  8. Abigail said,

    Interestingly, I find that my main characters usually like what I like to eat, so they’ll eat chicken most (with the one exception of a vegetarian character. That just fit like your princess.) And since I eat reasonably kosher, they won’t eat things like pork or bacon or things like that. It just doesn’t show up.

    I’ve thought about how much I put food into my stories and most often it is just a setting for myself. I think that food is based on how much food matters to the writer. None of my characters have an obsession with anything eatable, but I don’t either. (Except maybe coffee, as do a few particular characters.) Food I usually just skip over and don’t worry about it. It could be a good way to show your characters’ personalities however, because my one vegetarian character ended up saying it at a time when it showed how “proper” she was.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I think that is what made me think about it at all. My characters don’t eat often but when they do it tends to be something I would eat. I think I need to give them a little more variety.
      Thanks for the comment.

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