Monday, March 25, 2013

Personal Tastes in Fiction

It's said that men who prefer large rear ends on women cannot lie.  Whether that's true or not is certainly open to further experimentation, but it leads me to wonder where they acquire such a personal taste.

I, personally, really don't have my preference one way or another in the grand derriere arena, but when it comes to food I definitely have some favorites. If you've read the Return of the Gods series, you've probably already guessed one food that turns my knees weak: fried okra.  I mean, it makes sense logically, as few other foods can so successfully negate the negative health aspects of being deep-fried with the fact that they're a vegetable, nor can one single nugget of yumminess so often contain such a wide variety of pleasant textures.  You can eat them like popcorn without having to worry about the nasty hulls. 

And while I haven't met many other Southern (U.S.) delicacies I wouldn't take home to meet momma (to be honest, she introduced me to most of them, anyway), I'm also quite a fan of raw oysters, crab, lobster, and all sorts of rather non-traditionally-Southern food. 

So where do tastes come from?

I admit, I really don't know, but they sure are fun to play around with as an author.  I've caught on to the fun, and will be doing more of it in the future.  You can kind of tell--in the first book of Cataclysm it talks a little about Matt's love for fried okra, but then that love really comes out in Deception.  Similarly, Crystal has her faves (and a phobia or two) that are coming out in Book 4.  Alyssa, my main character in the Elf Queen series, also has her share of personal tastes that you'll come to know and love, I promise.

There have been a great many fictional characters over time whose personal tastes have helped define them.  Take Captain Jean-Luc Picard, for example, and his famous penchant for Earl Grey Tea.  Bond, James Bond, liked his martinis shaken, but not stirred.  The antagonist in The Help had an understandable aversion to a particular variety of pie.  Sansa Stark, from what I hear, really likes lemon cakes.  Tony Stark, meanwhile, prefers his liquor fine and his women finer (yes, in Marvel lore, he gave up drinking, but not forever). 

Where do fictional tastes come from?  Well, from the mind of the author.  There are an awful lot of sources out there describing how to use food in fiction as a way to draw another of your reader's senses in.  The really cool thing about it, though, from my own standpoint is that it's one aspect of the story that's entirely up to us.  When a character sits down to dinner, we're the only source for what is available for him to eat.  It's up to us what his choices are, and then it's our call whether it's perfectly seasoned, raw in the middle, or boiled to oblivion.

The thing to remember, though, is that our characters are like us in our humanism.  We sigh when we're eating prime rib not because it's the flesh of a cow cooked to temperate perfection, but rather because of the delicate way the grains of meat melt in our mouths, leaving a bold meaty and sometimes peppery flavor behind.  If you do it right, you've already gotten intimately familiar with a wine before it even touches your lips--can you describe that?   When was the last time you bit into a sizzling hot wurst of some sort and gleefully wiped the fatty juice from your chin and sucked it off of your finger?  A character who loves his Islay malt Scotch is going to love it for a reason--why?  What does it do to his mouth, to his sinuses, to his center when he takes the first burning sip?

Authors, get to know your characters more so that we can, too.  Play with different foods, different drinks, different textures, different tastes, and then let your characters do the same.

Unlike us, they can't get fat unless you write them so.


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