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I love writing about food. It gives the characters time to wind down and catch up with each other, build friendships and—from a writer’s perspective—an opportunity for characterization and building a society. It also allows the writer to break into the reader’s senses. Food is necessary, after all, and taste might be one of the most primitive sources of pleasure. Just look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
At the bottom of the pyramid under the Physiological Needs lies “food,” which most often correlates to the senses taste and smell. And touch, too, if you’re a food texture kind of person. (To place the other senses, I believe visual art as sight and music as hearing would be higher up the pyramid under the “creativity” of Self-Actualization.)
Anyway, my point here is that writing from the senses paints a better picture of the story for the reader.
Here’s a pie chart I made with data from The Encyclopedia of Educational Technology. It shows the use of each sense when all five senses are available.
Using this data, I think it’s safe to assume that in prose, this is pretty close to the actual breakdown of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste descriptions. I think it’s interesting that it’s said that smell is the strongest sense to trigger a memory, probably because the olfactory bulb is close to the amygdala or something like that. Anyway, I believe that writers shouldn’t skimp out on writing about food, because in doing so, it will appeal to senses that readers aren’t often used to being awakened through words. If you have described a feast and have successfully made the reader salivate, then you know you’ve done something good. Same if you’re writing about a disgusting meal and the readers lose their appetite.
Food is also important in defining a society. It says something about the food that grows in that region and how people prepare their food—whether it is for a large community, for their own smaller families, or for the sake of being gourmet.
What I think is most important about food is that it gives the characters the opportunity to socialize. Look at the following social gatherings:
• Celebrations, from birthday parties, weddings, promotions
• Hanging out with friends
• Reunions with old friends
They all involve food. (And if they don’t, then something is incredibly wrong.)
In the scenes I’ve written in which the objective is to eat, the characters have a chance to get to know one another better, quite like a date. They’re enjoying something in common—they’re eating, and if they aren’t enjoying their food then that can say something about the character, like either they’re a picky eater or they don’t make wise choices, or it can show that a character is self-indulgent, has no sense of self-control, or enjoys the smaller things in life. It can also say something about the person who is preparing the food, whether they’re caring, a pushover because someone made them cook, or maybe because they like to cook.
I also LOVE describing food. The textures—whether a bread can scrape the tongue or melt, the smoothness of chocolate or pudding, how much effort it takes to chew something and the strain on the jaw, whether something is scalding or leaves the entire gastrointestinal tract with a cool menthol feeling… Fictional food can taste like anything—things that I love myself, things that I want others to try and love, things I wish I could eat, things I wish existed…
Writing about food just makes the world seem more alive.
I still want to try limestone pie and hot melted silver from Return to Oz. Let’s hear from the readers! Have you tried any fictional food?
Fifteen-year-old Michelle saves the world on a daily basis…with her trusty video game controller, of course! Naturally, she jumps at the chance to play an experimental virtual reality game.
The beautiful fantasy world of Starrs? Check. The power to mold matter? Check. No reset button? Wait, she didn’t sign up for this!
Turns out Starrs is really real, and to make matters worse, Michelle’s interference awakens the Cycle of the Six Moons, a series of devastating trials that will devour the universe.
Fighting the apocalypse was way easier when danger stayed on the other side of the screen, but Michelle finds a secret weapon in her new-found powers. She uses them to rescue the crown prince of a powerful magic kingdom from their sworn enemies, a technologically-advanced cult that strives to eradicate magical blood.
Michelle starts to fall for Prince Jayse, the only one who believes Michelle to be a savior rather than a curse. But not even video games could prepare her for what the cult has in store for them…
Deciding last minute to stay in Starrs, Michelle continues her epic adventure as Goddess. After all, learning how to save the world sure beats a year of pre-calculus. With her friends by her side, Michelle travels to a city of scholars to learn the lore of the Cycle of the Six Moons.
At first, the exotic retreat turns romantic, as Michelle spends her free time exchanging sweet letters with the crown prince, Jayse. But, during her studies, Michelle learns something that drastically changes her game plan. Powerful blood must be spilled to end the Cycle…blood that only runs through her veins and the prince destined to fall in love with her.
During a celebration honoring their enlightenment, Michelle and Jayse are whisked off to a rogue city as trophies of a tournament, where only the strongest can claim a taste of their blood. Gallant as ever, their guardian, Gediyon, enters to prevent harm to his friends. Unfortunately for the contestants, the Cycle’s latest trial prevents everyone from waking from a cursed slumber…
Enjoy an excerpt:
After a moment, I hear the familiar high pitched clinking of metal against stone. I try to scream, “Is someone there?” but it probably can’t be heard from the other side.
I look at Jayse, who’s leaning against the wall, and I signal to him to do the shouting for me.
He calls out the same thing. “Is someone there?” He must put all his air into it because as soon as he’s done, he falls back against the wall and starts to slide down.
I rush to his side and help him stay on his feet, using my hand to fan him viciously, hoping it’ll cool him down or help him breathe easier or whatever. I don’t know if it does anything.
The hammering has stopped momentarily. Then, far away and muffled, I hear someone shout back, “Yes! Yes, stay right there! We’re coming soon.”
I sigh with relief and look at Jayse. He’s sweating so much that the blood on his jaw has already washed away. I wipe the sweat on his forehead with the back of my hand.
“You want to sit down?” I whisper.
He slides down, then stops himself. The hammering on the other side of the stone barricade has continued, but another sound is louder, closer. The sound of sharpening blades.
I swallow a lump in my throat and look back down another hall to the right, the one we’d have taken if the lanterns didn’t lead here. Something is definitely coming this way. I light the hall with a steady stream of fire. Several yards away, the digger scrapes his scythes against each other. When the fire reaches him, he sprints forward and I scream.
About the Author:Adelle Yeung is the author of The Cycle of the Six Moons trilogy, a young adult fantasy adventure.
She is also a voice-over artist who can’t go a day without a cup of tea. When she’s not writing or recording, she enjoys sewing costumes, baking sweets, and escaping on video game adventures. She lives in California with a cat that dreams of eating the pet bird.
She has provided script supervision for the independent animation, Shattered Heaven, and is head script editor and one of the co-writers for the upcoming game Fiona Frightening and the Wicked Wardrobe.