Eating is a very important and commonplace part of life. Yet, so many novels have characters go by the entire time without as much as a snack. Why? I think this is a huge missed opportunity when it comes to developing a character.
So much can be revealed just by exploring your character’s digestive habits. Plus those sensory experiences can get some great reactions from your readers. Whether those reactions are hunger pangs or belly flips is entirely up to you.
Below are some of the different ways you can explore food in your writing:
Who do your characters eat with?
Does your character eat alone or do they need to have people around? Who your character eats with can be very telling without saying directly that your character is a loner or social butterfly.
When they eat with other people are they the type of people who waits for the other person to get their meal, or do they dive in without worrying? Everyone at one point is shocked (either pleasantly or unpleasantly) by a person’s level of social grace. Uncovering your character’s level of dining etiquette can leave an impression on your readers.
What does your character eat?
How adventurous is your character’s palette? Would your character eat sushi or shawarma? Or is the full range of their taste buds chicken nuggets and French fries? Fun with that eater who combines everything together in one massive culinary concoction or dealing with a picky eater can speak volumes about your character. If you don’t believe me ask Sam-I-Am.
Where and when does your character eat?
Does your character follow a food routine or do they eat whenever they feel hungry? If your character is structured in all aspects of their life, an organized food schedule is yet another way to prove their predictable behavior.
Can they only eat at home or do they prefer fancy restaurants or food trucks? Can they cook or would they ruin toast? If the character has to make another stop for breakfast it can serve as one of those small events that sets off a chain reaction.
Why does your character eat?
Is food fuel or fun to your character? If your character sees eating as something they have to do rather than something they want to do, you can use eating to provide subtle details rather than just telling readers your characters’ motivations. When a character eats healthy well-balanced meals, showing them shoving an ice cream down their throat is an easy way to establish something in their life has changed.
How does your character eat?
If you don’t think people all have totally different styles of eating, go to a restaurant and people watch. You will learn so much. Smacking, burping, stabbing, slurping, gulping, chewing, open mouth, closed mouth, loud, shoveling, munching, crunching, finger licking, stuffing, etc. Need I go on? There are so many words you can use to describe how a person eats.
And that’s only one part of the how. We haven’t even considered the way your character chooses foods. Do they eat with their eyes, nose, or tongue? Will they avoid any food that is green? Can they eat if their foods are touching each other? So many details revolve around the simple act of eating.
Those are some of the ways I think about feeding my characters. What about you? Do you feed your characters?