Story Inspiration Sunday

I am not much of a cook: I do much more assembly, when it comes to meals, as opposed to actual cooking.

Though that actually depends on your definition of cooking.

For example, I do make my own chicken broth. I save bones in the freezer, and when I get enough, I throw them into a pot with a bottle of the cheapest white wine I can find, along with some vinegar and water. I cook it for hours, letting it simmer and reduce. When it cools, it will have a gelatinous layer–all the calcium cooked out of the bones. I freeze the broth, and use it for crockpot stews. It’s also my beverage of choice if I have a bad cold.

Contrast that with my dinners. I cook all the meat for the week on the weekend, then I just reheat with veggies or salad. Assembly, not cooking.

But I was thinking about how food inspires writers and other creative types.

(Warning! Pictures and content below the cut may make you hungry!)

Candy Necklace

Usually, food isn’t just food to writers. It’s words strung together, like a candy necklace. Or his goodbye kiss, as sweet as the first lemonade of summer.

One of the things that I enjoy doing is creating a metaphor and simile suite: some characters are always going to be defined by their Aunt Jessiebell’s blueberry pie, or their mama’s fried chicken. And others are going to mix their friends and lovers like Uncle Lee’s stir fry.

Food defines us, or rather, our characters. One of the best pieces of advice I heard as a younger writer was to let your characters eat. Yes, keep the tension high: maybe it’s just chicken butts on a stick that they snatch as they’re running through a night market. Or maybe it’s a good break between scenes, where you can ramp up the emotional tension.


Hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought!




Story Inspiration Sunday — 8 Comments

  1. One of my biggest problems with a lot of “Chick Lit” books is that the heroines consider an apple or a glass of orange juice (ulcer making or acid reflux trigger) a meal. I could never function on that kind of diet. The brain and body both need calories in a balance of protein, carb, and veg. My balance isn’t your balance, but still, running around all day on the fuel of only an apple or a piece of dry toast does not make for a functional brain or body. No wonder the heroines of romance novels all stammer in wonder if a good looking male deigns to speak to them. They don’t have enough fuel on board to think straight.

    Let your character eat. They’ll stay model slim better on a balanced diet than nothing more than an apple.

  2. Eating and meal style can be fine for character definition. I have a hero who gets so involved in his heroing that he forgets to eat. You park him in front of the food, however, and he makes up for lost time; the heroine instantly grasped this and wormed her way into his heart in jig time.
    You get more flavor, and a deeper color, if you roast the meat/bones first. I dump the stored chicken bones straight from the freezer bag into a roasting pan, and roast them brown at 400 degrees. Then, into the stockpot with onion, sage, rosemary and peppercorns.

  3. I’m a big fan of dropping hints about food in books. Food is so important in our lives–or lack of proper food–that I think there’s a problem if it’s ignored in a story. You just have to not overwhelm the reader with it. I don’t put actual recipes in stories, but that didn’t stop one fan from inventing “Night Calls Chicken” from hints I put in Night Calls.

    My current book surprised me–someone’s kitchen skills means they’ve been selected to do the spying on a baddie!

  4. It is clear to me that a -real- spy would work in the service industries. He would tend bar, or wait table, or mop floors. And listen, and pick up papers from wastepaper baskets, or quietly liberate stuff from handbags set beside the table. Real spies are not James Bond; they look older and fatter and more ordinary. They are like the guy at Mitt Romney’s party.

    • Absolutely. And being a young woman, no one in this society knows to look for her for a long, long time. This allows her to grow into all kinds of useful people!