How much do you think of food when you write?
Food usually drives our body and mind to a safe place, where we feel nurtured, comfortable and happy. One would think in the every day life eating is necessary for our sustenance, strength and good health. But in the fiction world, eating doesn’t seem essential to the development of the plot. Picture the movie Die Hard. The main character doesn’t drink, doesn’t eat, and doesn’t take a break for the two hours he spends killing the villains. I stop here. Die Hard was set in our time, and based on our food culture of the late eighties in America. Not describing John McLane’s last meal wouldn’t have changed anything to the plot.
But for fantasy, paranormal and science-fiction genres, food can become a total different animal, and a bigger part of the story. The characters may eat (and drink) things that don’t exist in the real world. During a random conversation with a fellow author friend, she mentioned she was eating a chocolate chip cookie. I asked her if she enjoyed the cookie and she immediately replied: mmmmmmm! Which in other words means YES! I also love cookies but does one of the main characters in her fantasy story know what cookies are? No. Cookies don’t exist in his world.
Time for the author’s imagination to get to work! Thinking of a character’s diet, bear in mind the reader must be able to still make the connection between the fantasy world and the real world. The ingredients will bear different names, but the end result will produce the same taste. Food in a fantasy, science-fiction or paranormal environment might therefore add an extra touch of originality and make the story stand out. Characters are molded according to our standards. Some people are foodies, some aren’t, but nobody is immune to a great or disgusting meal.
However playful, dreadful, unbelievably complex or awfully simple, food is like love. Authors don’t necessarily have to describe their characters’ love life, but if they do, it brings something more to the table. Readers discover the character’s background, his/her personality, his/her likes and dislikes, and the combination of everything ultimately renders the character more believable.
Next week, I’m tackling a fantasy recipe – but I don’t know yet what to cook! Any ideas? Remember, this isn’t Top Chef. It only has to taste good…