Are Your Characters Starving? By Cheryl Owen Wilson

We populate our books with people or other worldly beings. Even beings have to eat don’t they? Are they eating bland oatmeal and drinking only purified water? If so, what does that tell the reader about them? Or are they sitting in front of a 3lb. tray of spicy, boiled crawfish, ripping the tails to enjoy the meat contained within, then completing this ritual by sucking the fat out of the crustacean’s head? Now that, my friends, will tell your reader something entirely different about said character, even if he’s green and has four hands. Why just think of how many of those red tiny creatures he could consume with those extra appendages.

I’ve just returned from my childhood home in the deep southern toe of Louisiana, a place where food is its own character. From gumbo—which bares a remarkable resemblance to the muddy waters of the many swamps peppered throughout the state—swimming with white rice—brown would be sacrilegious—to the stuffed sausage known as boudin—food is its own unique being in the land of my youth.

The first words out of anyone’s mouth when discussing my home state is, “The food, oh man ‘the food’!“ Followed lasciviously by. “Do you know how to cook like that?” When I say yes, their next words are—“Can I come to dinner?”

Now I know other cultures have their own unique food characters. But I’m writing about what I know and what I know is gator on a stick and grits glistening with sunshine yellow butter. I know if I have my protagonist dusting powdered sugar from her perfectly creased black slacks and eating beignets, she is probably sitting somewhere in the Deep South and drinking a steaming cup of syrupy, chicory coffee.

So again I ask you, are the living beings in your books starving? In many stories I read the meals are skipped over, fading from one scene to the next. What a waste. I say, let’s start feeding our antagonists and protagonists. Take for example, the 4-year-old girl in a story I started this morning who bites the heads off her Barbie dolls. Now don’t you want to know what she had for breakfast this morning or better yet, who or what she’ll have for dinner tonight?

I know you want to go out and eat now. But first, please tell me how food plays a part in your stories.

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2 thoughts on “Are Your Characters Starving? By Cheryl Owen Wilson

  1. Now that you mention it, my characters drink a lot, but they rarely pause to eat. I’ll have to think about that. Or better yet, go do some research into chocolate consumption.

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