We all have our favorite foods. Food is an important part of life and few places is that more evident than the holidays. Maybe it’s your aunt’s prize winning pumpkin pie, or the cookies you decorate with your kids. You could be drinking sparkling bubbly, warm hot chocolate, or a special tea that help you breathe through a stuffy nose. We build rituals around it and use it as a way to connect to friends and loved ones. And the best part is that these deep connections we make to food give it the superpower in our writing.
Want to show your character making sacrifices for their little sister? Have her steal the their french fries. Need something for your characters to do while they have that super important conversation about robbing the bank? Have them make dinner together. Bonus points if their styles of cooking don’t go well together. Trying to show us that your character isn’t interested in frills? Show them eating a really plain meal.
Because food and drink have such deep meanings in our real lives, they can reveal character in our stories in a way that is natural and intuitive. These little food moments are natural, built into our lives by an actual, physical need to eat.
Also, while food itself is universal, there are a lot of ways it can be used to indicate culture and community identities. There are few easier ways to show a character’s cultural background. A lot of countries have stuffed leaf dishes, but I make dolmathes and someone else might make sarma. We have different backgrounds and the little differences in our food show this.
So, how do your characters feel about food? What do they love, what do they hate? Do they enjoy cooking with their family, or would they rather do the dishes? Who would they be willing to share their ice cream with?
We might not give these little details a lot of thought, but they can pack a huge characterization punch.
Your friendly neighborhood storyteller,
Cover photo by unsplash-logoElement5 Digital