Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Food in fiction

Over here davidlevine is talking about food in stories:

take away all references to food. Food is comfort. Characters
who are eating are not serious about whatever problems face them. One
lousy frozen burrito can suck 25% of the tension out of a scene.

Although I agree with a lot of what David says about writing, I'm going to disagree on this one.

It might very well be true for David's WIP, but I feel caution is required before applying it as a general principle. It's very much going to depend on the type of story you're writing. Food can be very important in filling in the details of the world, either creating a sense of luxury or of poverty for example. Jon Courteney Grimwood's Arabesk has wonderful food and taking it away would definitely damage the novel.

There's a fair bit of food in my WIP, because feeding the pilgrims is an important part of the protag's job that has to be done despite their problems. In fact during the revision pass, I'm going to try actually making up some of the recipes, eg for the Longletonian version of shepherd's pie, which is vegetarian because the Longle sheep are never killed for meat; they're much too valuable for their fleece and milk.

Intense conversations over dinner or canapes can be integral to the plot of other types of story and what someone eats (or doesn't eat) can tell you a lot about a character.

What I would say is don't just let a character sit down and enjoy a meal without anything else happening. None of my characters ever get to do that. In the WIP, meals are interrupted, burnt, delayed, lack vital ingredients or are eaten during important conversations, but the food always has a purpose, even if only scene setting to prevent the story being just talking heads and to help pace the dialogue.

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