I like food. A lot. And as much as I try and write characters that are radically different from me, inevitably parts of myself end up creeping in. One character will share my shyness, another will tell bad jokes that sound a lot like mine and pretty much all of them will really, really enjoy food. All of the important events of their lives seem to occur with the backdrop of a Chinese restaurant, or a fish and chip shop, or eating Tim Tams in a pillow fort. No, really. I think they might need to hand themselves over to Overeaters Anonymous. (Luckily no one seems to put on weight with all this eating they do. Perks of being a fictional character.) My first novel, Girl Saves Boy, was published in 2010. It's a contemporary YA, and since I'm Australian, they eat a lot of Tim Tams and hot chips. There's also a lot of adventuring and funny-sad scenes and awkward teenage romance.
To me, it makes a lot of sense that all of the most important scenes in the book center around a meal - in the real world, so many of our celebrations and friendships and experiences are based around food. Christmas lunch! (Far superior to presents.) Catching up with old friends over afternoon tea! Cooking a meal for someone! Takeaway nights with the family! And what characters eat say a lot about them - the father of one character might eat takeaway all the time, which says a lot in regards to cooking skill (and parenting skills). Also, evoking a really great meal in a book is about as close as I will ever get to being a master chef. When I write, very little of my own life comes through (my life is quite boring; the fictitious lives of my characters are very exciting, but also pretty intense and sad. I think I'm happy with my lot), but my food tastes and lots of other little details come though. (Novel-writing is actually a pretty self-indulgent thing.)
Some of the important parts of Girl Saves Boy made better by food include:
- The protagonist, Sacha, and one of his best friends, True, go out and eat Yum Cha at an establishment called Lucky House. (I based this restaurant on a real one - I didn't even change the name - but sadly my real-world Lucky House closed shortly after the publication of my novel. Coincidence? I hope so. I loved that restaurant.) Sacha loves the dumplings, but also has important news to share with True, which he kind of avoids telling her by instead stealing a lobster (living!) from the restaurant in question.
- Little Al (Sacha's other best friend) is an always-snacking teenage genius. He shows up at Sacha's house with a newspaper parcel of chips, he sits at the bus stop chatting to Jewel (the other protagonist) with a bag of M&M's, and when Sacha visits his house (and Al's very bogan, very friendly, sprawling family) Al's mother is always cooking something.
- I cringe at the fact that a large part of my novels tend to centre around romance - I am the least romantic person ever - but there is a romantic scene where the characters eat Tim Tams, because Tim Tams are really quite glorious. But again, I cringe. Other people seem to dig romance, though, so that's the main thing. Also they go out for hot chocolates. They quite like chocolate, these romantics.
And then there's more! Sausages in bread at the fete and electrolyte icypoles in the nurse's office while one character has a very dramatic realisation! In my second novel (still editing this one), one protagonist lives on instant noodles and fruit roll-ups, while another is always eating waffles in truck stop cafes - characters with very different lifestyles, but who are actually quite similar. One character communicates solely through conversation hearts. Which is problematic.
Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog, Shelley! Writers, I encourage you to remember that your characters do in fact need to eat (unless they are non-eating aliens or inanimate objects) and they might as well eat really nice food. It's all calorie-free, after all.
Thank you for stopping by to share your food for thought, Steph!
You can find Steph here: