Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You Are What You Eat by Morgan Mandel

Who hasn't heard the saying, You Are What You Eat?
It's true that what you eat can impact your health. A steady diet of sugar could tip the scales and turn you into a diabetic. Too many fats can clog your arteries.

Consider how this applies to characters in your novel.

If you want to portray someone as being health conscious, you wouldn't have that person eat steaks and real butter every time you mention what they're eating.

Then again, a guy eating steaks and mashed potatoes with real butter could be described as a virile person, daring person, unfearful of popular opinion.

A vetetarian could be portrayed as someone not wanting to take chances.

A woman who eats cartons of ice cream and chocolate might be someone consoling herself from a recent disappointment in the love department.

What examples can you give?


Kevin R. Tipple said...

that guy could also just be one of those lucky freaks who can eat anything and his body can handle it. I have known a few folks like that over the years and figure they are space aliens in human form.

Anonymous said...

Hah! Ya see, I'd call the steak and butter eater an educated person who realizes the fat in that dinner won't end up clogging her arteries as long as she doesn't add starch or sugar. She's smart and savvy and does her homework in all aspects of life.

The vegetarian is foggy - don't expect him to be much help in putting two and two together unless you want to come up with three. He loves animals, and they love him. When he walks through the park, squirrels follow him.

The low-fat dieter is a follower, and she's afraid; of taking a stand, of taking a risk, of looking too closely at herself. She is not as bright as she thinks she is. Her friends are all sick of hearing her tell them what she had for breakfast and why. And they're darn tired of hearing about her thyroid.

The person loading up on chocolate just found out her sister has cancer. Chocolate is the only thing that helps her to feel normal, and it only works for a few minutes. So she'll be needing a lot of chocolate. Don't judge her.

The woman sitting with her back to the corner, eating a romaine salad with no dressing, is going to live forever. But she isn't happy, and, darn it, no one around her is going to be happy either. She has no ability to trust and no faith in the future. Her social skills are non-existent. But she has very white teeth with which to nibble. She has a stale cookie in the bottom of her purse, just in case her car breaks down in an ice storm.

Debra St. John said...

Hmn? Interesting...

A hero in one of my novels was a chef, so he was always cooking up fabulous things for the heroine. Although to be honest, I'm not sure what he cooked gave any insight to his character.

They did have some 'fun' with chocolate sauce at the end of the book....

Morgan Mandel said...

Some fun answers so far. Any or all of them could be true. What do we really know about food? How much of it is tainted before it reaches us anyway?

Still, it's one way to give a clue about a character without coming right out and saying it - show, not tell.

Morgan Mandel

April said...

Great question! I do notice that food often plays a big part in comforting a character - or a person in real life for that matter.

carl brookins said...

Food, one of the great largely unaddressed areas of crime fiction. I'm not referring to food as the agent of crime here so much as the insights food gives to character. Plus imagine how many ways food could be used to advance plot and action. just a couple of examples of creative use of food.

Liana Laverentz said...

I tend to have my characters eat healthy, which is more a reflection of my changing lifestyle choices over the years than theirs.

Farrah from The Book Faery Reviews said...

I would think that even HOW the food is eaten or prepared to eat could give us some way to determine a character's personality.

Morgan Mandel said...

Farrah's idea of how a food is eaten or prepared is worth consideration when rounding out a character. Homebody's go to great lengths to make dishes from scratch, while others may microwave TV dinners.

Some people wolf food down, while others cut it into tiny pieces and are more exact.

Great points, Farrah.

Morgan Mandel

Brenda Buchanan said...

Many years ago when I was a newspaper reporter I drank coffee all day long. Cup after cup. Morning, noon and night.

In my WIP, my protagonist does the same. I'm undecided if he'll eventually suffer the same fate I did -- heart palpitations, which served notice that I'd hit my life limit of caffeine.

I'm all decaf all the time, now. It's fun to swill joe all day, if only on the page.

Brenda B. in Maine

Cara Lopez Lee said...

Fun food for thought, Morgan. In the historical novel I'm working on, I use food to establish family connection and cultural setting: a Mexican family sitting around a fire eating gorditas, a Chinese mother boiling a still-squirming fish. In my memoir, I included a discussion about food that I had with a lover. I saw how our attitudes toward food became metaphors for our personalities and, in this quote, for the relationship's possibilities:

“Um... OK, normally I don’t like liver. But this one time I was at a friend’s house and they made this liver, and I don’t know if it was just that it was prepared in a different way, or if my taste had changed, but it was fantastic. So, you never know...” (excerpted from "They Only Eat Their Husbands")

Helen Ginger said...

In my WIP, the protagonist is a vegetarian. Over the years she's been an off and on vegetarian, due to circumstances in her life. At this point, she's in charge of her life, which hasn't always been the case.

CA Verstraete said...

Ah gee can't they just eat to eat? ha! Enough guilt about chocolate and the "fun" stuff without adding it to the characters too. haa!

Morgan Mandel said...

Guilt has taken the fun out of eating. Even when I enjoy something good, I think of how it's really bad for me.

Morgan Mandel

Sharon - Grandma is a Writer said...

I wonder what eating habits in moderation say about a character. Totally boring? Or very much in control? Maybe a little of both. What he does that is "out of character" in the way of eating habits may indicate more about what is going on in the story. Just thinking out loud here!

Heidiwriter said...

I love Anon's examples!
Food has always been a social thing: we gather with friends and family around meals, we meet buddies for coffee or drinks. My mother was from Germany, so this social eating ritual was important to her. I love any excuse to eat--when I'm happy, depressed, hungry or not. And of course, chocolate is good for any occasion.

Good thoughts about another way to develop your characters!