Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, February 01, 2012 12 comments
Jane opens Brenna’s fridge and sees neat rows of French mineral water, bins stuffed with fresh veggies, and hiding behind a row of organic condiments, a half-eaten shoo-fly pie.

Who is Brenna?
A) A Southern grandma who runs Jane's quilting circle.
B) An upwardly-mobile, urban gym-addict who's ashamed of her rural roots.
C) A disorganized, free-spirited artist who rarely remembers to eat.

If you guessed B, then you know that what’s in a character’s fridge tells you a lot about her. Specifically, it can tell you about the following:

relationship to food
Does she love to cook and have lots of interesting ingredients on hand? Does she eat only out of necessity and give little thought to food?

level of tidiness and ability to plan
Is her fridge dirty or sparkling? Is it bare or full enough to feed an army at a moment's notice? Are foods in logical places? Do oddball items find their way inside?

health-consciousness
Is she a raw-foods vegan? A junk-food junkie? All organic? Cares only if the food is quick and tasty?

level of sophistication
Does she eat only plain, all-American foods or does she try cuisines from all over the world?

socioeconomic status (or strivings)
Is her food pricey foreign imports, middle-America name brands or cheap generics?

willingness to indulge herself
Does she allow herself a tiny pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a freezer full of it? Does she have a freezer-burned 5-gallon vat of generic vanilla ice cream because it’s a “good value”?

spending priorities
Does she skimp on one food category to spend more on another? Is eating organic more important than, say, having cable TV? Does she stick to only WIC-covered items?

ethnic or socioeconomic background
Does she keep specialized ingredients on hand from a particular culture? What are her childhood comfort foods she hides?

place on the traditional to trendy spectrum
Does she have Tupperware containers of leftover tuna-noodle casserole or cartons of takeout from the hip Vietnamese place? Ranch dip or hummus? String beans or edamame?

What's in your character's fridge? How can you use this exercise to know your character better, even if a fridge peek would never fit your story?

*repost from Sept. 2010

12 comments:

  1. This is good. I've never really thought about what's in my characters' fridges. It's a great exercise. I will try it.

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    1. Have fun with it! Another bit of research to try is to peek into others' shopping carts at the grocery store and see what it shows you.

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  2. I like this. I've often thought about how every day things (like taste in food or preference in music or movies) can tell a lot about a character. I can picture what foods my latest MC likes right away. :)

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    1. It's helpful to think about and work into a story--after all, eating is something everyone does several times a day. How we differ in our relationship to food can be so telling.

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  3. I love this exercise. I need to spend some more time thinking about the average every day things my characters would do.

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    1. I think it humanizes characters if they're depicted at least occasionally doing basic survival things like eating. Everyone can relate to the need for food. :-)

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  4. I love this idea. It IS a good what to gain insight into our characters.

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  5. I like this idea! Great stuff, even if, like you said, they wouldn't use a fridge. I think I've seen this done with a car trunk somewhere too. I need to give the fridge thing a try. Thanks a bunch!

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  6. Wow, I stumbled onto your post at the perfect time! I just finished editing a scene where my main character is pulling things out of the cupboard and fridge to make a meal for another character. Honestly, I hadn't given what she was cooking very much thought, being more concerned with the dialogue that was going on. Now I'm going to have to think more about this!

    Thanks so much for your great post!

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  7. Interesting post!

    I never really thought of something like this in relation to characters, but it is revealing, as your example showed.

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  8. Reading this, it all seems so obvious, so why haven't I thought of this before? Great post, and great reminder that there are so many creative ways to give information about a character.

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  9. What a clever and insightful post! And so true too. I have a real-life neighbor-friend who's a ridiculous control freak and micro-manager of every aspect of hers and her family's lives. You should see her fridge and pantry! Everything is organized by category, lined up and stacked up to perfection, and both are always stocked to the hilt, as if she's on constant high-alert for Armageddon. Great post!

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