Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Characters Won't Diet

In case you needed further reinforcing that I have a love affair with food, I made a decision today: the characters in my novels will never be on a diet.

This decision is actually a tough one to make; while I favor the fantasy genre, I have written chick lit before, and plan to write it again someday. I found it a fun, relatable genre with a lot of potential for catharsis. However, one of the central points usually tends to be the never-ending quest to lose about 5 pounds. I think the only book in that genre that I read that didn't have some kind of prevailing weight-loss theme was the first book in the Shopaholic series (granted, I haven't read huge amounts of chick lit, but it wouldn't surprise me to find it's a common thread).

I'm currently trying to re-align myself with the basic tenets of Weight Watchers, because most of my clothes no longer fit. And, honestly, it hasn't been very fun. At the moment, I'm gnawing on a breakfast sandwich that tastes a little like bark (if I knew what bark actually tasted like). I'm willing to subject my characters to heartbreak; they can be hungry from questing, exhausted, exposed to the elements, wounded from facing mythical creatures, heck - I may even kill one or two off here and there. But I will not make them eat a low-fat multigrain bagel, with cheese that is slightly reminiscent of plastic and an unnatural circle of something that is rumored to be egg white.

Most of my fantasy characters will not really have to worry about this sort of thing, of course. Usually the only fat ones are the innkeepers, and they aren't too worried about maintaining a good physique. But the idea still holds - one of the things I've always loved when reading fantasy novels is the descriptions of the food. I want to explain that the vegetables and potatoes being set for the feast are slathered in butter or bacon fat. The meat shall be roasted with the skin still on, so that it crackles while the juices run down people's fingers as they eat. And the desserts? I'd feel like I let someone down if they weren't insanely elaborate and involved an actual river of chocolate (historical accuracy be damned).

One of the other things I cannot wait to do in my novel is something I've experienced over and over again, and I love it every time. A character goes on a quest. They start out with enough supplies, but it becomes clear at some point that there isn't enough. They have to scavenge. Their resources dwindle, and eventually they end up facing an enemy - perhaps they end up wounded, but somehow still squeak by and survive. Then, they finally make it to safety, and food, and water, and healing. The dynamic there is so incredibly simple, but whenever I find myself reading that kind of sequence, it's like I'm being built back up with the character while it happens. I love it when an author lists out exactly what the character is eating in order to reclaim his or her strength, because it's like I'm eating every word and I can feel them recovering. It happens over and over again in the Wheel of Time series and in Tolkien's novels as well. It's a strange kind of rejuvenation, to the point where, if I have to stop reading while the character is still exhausted and trying to get to safety, I just don't feel right until I get to read them the rest of the way there.

Anyways, to summarize: diets=bad. Food=good. Questing=better. Adventure=best.

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