Monday, April 8, 2013

Characters At Breakfast, and a Challenge

"Wienies, the Breakfast of Fandom"

Back when I was a button dealer at science fiction conventions, the phrase above was one of my best selling buttons.

The kind of conventions I attended did not have the razzle-dazzle of the professional convention, such as Comic-con.  These were fan conventions.  There were few stars (maybe a midlist author or two, and a champion gamer) and no corporate presence at all. For many fans, conventions were a lifestyle.  The fen would pack themselves in, sometimes eight to a double room, and party, and argue, and play all weekend.

And very often the only food available for breakfast, for those who were crashing on the floor of the hotel room of a distant acquaintance, was whatever was left over in the "con suite" (the hospitality room of the convention).  This often consisted of chips, pretzels and hot dogs.

Hence the button "Wienies, the Breakfast of Fandom."

Some of these people might very well eat hot dogs for breakfast at home, but most of them were just eating what was available.  (I suspect that Pop Tarts was a common meal back home.)  And yes some people brought their own Pop Tarts, and some went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and some would pack themselves in, a dozen to a car like clowns, and head off to find the nearest Denny's or Waffle House. Many slept through breakfast and started their day with lunch.

And all of them probably ate something different at home than what they ate at the con.

I bring this up, because I think what a person eats for breakfast -- often the most opportunistic meal of the day -- is an intersection between their character and their situation.

And these two elements -- character and situation -- are the foundation of all fiction.

What a person chooses to eat for breakfast tells you something about them.  What they choose when they can't have what they normally have can tell you more.  (And what they choose when somebody else is buying tells you more also.)  Food relates to culture as well as taste, and a person's choice will be influenced not only by the culture they are currently surrounded by, but also the culture they were raised in.

Breakfast Blog Challenge

For the next two weeks, I'm going to be blogging about what various of my characters eat for breakfast in different situations.  I'd like to challenge other bloggers out there -- both writers and readers -- to write a post about the breakfasting habits of their favorite characters.

You can write about your own characters or a famous character created by someone else.  (And you can extrapolate what you imagine the famous character would eat. You don't have to stick to the text.)

Consider these questions:

*What is a usual breakfast for this character?

*What's different in these circumstances (some of these may be the "usual," some not):

  • What sort of breakfast does a character make for himself, on his own?
  • What's a quick breakfast on the run?
  • What breakfast would the character order when away from home, in a restaurant?
  • What's a special "treat" breakfast?

You could also consider things like whether you character skips breakfast, or whether they'll eat differently if someone else is paying. Does the character see breakfast as a social occasion? Or a "health" activity? Do they see breakfast more as an ending to The Night Before, or a preparation for The Day Ahead?  How does the character relate to unfamiliar things -- a change in schedule, foreign food, social pressure? Also, are there cultural or world-building considerations from the greater story?

If you write such a post, please let me know: post a link in the comments here, or maybe tweet with the hashtag #characterbreakfasts . 

I'll be posting about my characters on the following schedule:

Thursday, April 11: Mick and Casey, whose "on the trail" lifestyle in a western setting puts some limits on what they can choose.

Monday, April 15: George and Karla of the Starling and Marquette Mysteries. Their eating habits reflect both their very different personalities and backgrounds (neurotic man of the world, and quirky small town spinster), but also the similarities which make them so compatible.

Thursday, April 18: Alex, Thorny, Captain Rozinshura, from The Case of the Misplaced Hero.  And introducing Lady Pauline whose prequel story, The Case of the Misplaced Baroness begins the week after.  These characters illustrate a little about blending made up cultures with real ones -- and how an imaginary culture influences a real one.

See you in the funny papers.


Carradee said...

I actually tend to have my characters eat in my stories (maybe because I tend to eat 4–6 meals a day, myself, due to my metabolism, and I have several food intolerance/allergy issues).

And there's so much variety in what people eat for breakfast—or in what they think proper food for breakfast—that it's something that can be used to illustrate other characters.

The Daring Novelist said...

Oh, that's another one: health issues and how well or badly the characters manage them -- must edit post to include that.

Kyra said...

This sounds fun! Silas and Lainie's breakfasts are probably pretty similar to Mick and Casey's. But Professor Rossony (from an upcoming novel) has some very interesting breakfast habits.

The Daring Novelist said...

So far I've found thinking about this a lot of fun.

Some of these characters are ones I've never written them having a breakfast. Others I've written such that I'm sure the breakfast was not their usual.

I hope you'll write about your characters.

Kyra said...

Here's my first breakfast challenge blog post:

James D said...

I posted an entry on my blog as well...

The Daring Novelist said...

Oh, nice job, both of you. (And very different eating styles!)

Lee McAulay said...

Rising to the challenge (which is more than I manage for breakfast), here's my plateful:
(Not as tasty as it sounds).
Thanks for starting this off, Camille. It's fascinating and it's given me a lot to think about.

The Daring Novelist said...

Hey, thanks for participating, Lee!

Deviled kidneys and marmite do... sound.... interesting.