I remember a National Geographic article from a few years ago, The Joy of Food, by Victoria Pope, offered an interesting observation.
“The sharing of food has always been part of the human story . . . ‘To break bread together’, a phrase as old as the Bible, captures the power of a meal to forge relationships, bury anger, and provoke laughter.”
In creating contemporary fictional scenes, epic fantasy moments, or science fiction settings, food and the act of eating, humanizes a story. Our mouth waters with tantalizing narrative of baked goods and braised stew. Romance tickles when someone gently hand-feeds a morsel of food to a love interest. Intrigue is piqued while supping at the table of a wealthy nineteenth-century Duke. Warmth ebbs in our bones when characters share spit-roasted game around a campfire in the dead of winter. We smile when a normally dysfunctional family banters happily around a holiday feast, setting aside for a moment, that which keeps them apart.
Food can be a defining backdrop with apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. Driven back to our hunter-gatherer forbearers, societies are demoralized with heart-wrenching memories of how abundant food once was. Haves and have-nots when food is scarce, polarize villages, communities, entire nations. Food as common currency is reborn. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy is an excellent example of this. S.M. Stirling’s Dies the Fire serialized life when the power went out—permanently. Christopher Nolen’s movie Interstellar, painted somberness from food-blighted, agrarian collapse.
Food weighs heavily when portraying communal tables, customs, folklore, and regional diversity. George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series is rich with culinary indulgence and subsistence living. Tolkien’s Hobbits are quiet, yet passionate diners. Elves are vegans, and dwarves—well—they’ll eat anything that isn’t green. Robert Jordan’s fourteen book Wheel of Time series has more eating scenes than grains of sand in the Wicked Witch of the West’s hourglass. Vampire feeding is a genre unto itself. Opinions vary on what Zombies find nutritious.
Science fiction poses a stronger challenge with respect to otherworldly beings, especially when writers have to define characteristics of sentient alien life. Babylon 5 was a jewel of multiple alien interactions, all with unique culinary customs. Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow did a masterful job of characterizing alien beings by what they shared with pioneering visitors from earth. Hard-core Star Trek fans can cite Klingon fare as if reading from a menu. One of my favorite movies was The Matrix where human “copper-tops” dreamed of real food, but the few humans outside the matrix subsisted on something resembling watery eggs. Has all the body needs, amino acids, proteins . . .” The very sight of it made me gag.
Eating is the ultimate show versus tell enhancer. Here’s one in an old story I wrote that attempts to capture all five senses. A pungent smokiness wafted from the meat offering that resembled a hairless, mummified rat carcass. The skin crackled between her teeth and her eyes watered from its unsalted, campfire bitterness. It was like trying to eat a botched taxidermy job, or an Amazonian shrunken beast stolen from a museum.
A story lacking a good eating scene falls short in illustrating a fundamental anthropological trait, not to mention missing out on a lot of fun writing.
What’s my favorite eating scene? Have to turn the clock back to the 1963 movie adaptation of Henry Fielding’s classic novel set in the British eighteenth-century, The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, where the handsome Tom and his dining partner wordlessly consume an enormous meal while lustfully gazing at each other.
That’s what I call eating.
A native of Wisconsin and Connecticut, DT Krippene deserted aspirations of being a biologist to live the corporate dream and raise a family. After six homes, a ten-year stint in Asia, and an imagination that never slept, his annoying muse refuses to be hobbled as a mere dream. Dan writes dystopia, paranormal, and science fiction. His current project is about a young man struggling to understand why he was born in a time when humans are unable to procreate and knocking on extinction’s door.
You can find DT on his website and his social media links.
Presented by: Melinda Curtis
Date: June 1 – 30, 2021
Pricing: A2P Member fee: $15
Non-A2P Member fee: $30
Writing conflict hurts – not just because it makes your characters suffer, but also because it’s painful to create and carry through on the page. However, conflict drives story and holds an editor’s attention, which means it sells books. Conflict also entices readers to turn the page, which helps create a satisfying experience (plus repeat purchases). Bring a story idea to this interactive course and learn how to build, refine or edit your stories by creating compelling conflict and stronger plots, one element at a time. Takeaways include:
Prior to writing romance, award-winning, USA Today Bestseller Melinda Curtis was a junior manager for a Fortune 500 company, which meant when she flew on the private jet she was relegated to the jump seat—otherwise known as the potty. After grabbing her pen (and a parachute) she made the jump to full-time writer. A hybrid author, Melinda has over 60 titles published or sold, including 40 works to Harlequin and five to Grand Central Forever, mostly sweet romance and sweet romantic comedy. One of her books, – Dandelion Wishes –, was made into a 2020 TV movie – Love in Harmony Valley. She recently came to grips with the fact that she’s an empty nester and a grandma, concepts easier to grasp than movies made from her books or jet-setting on a potty
I’m superstitious. Not crazy, black-cat superstitious, but hedge-my-bet, listen to the cosmos kind. For instance, when I play tennis and I win a service point, I won’t serve with another ball. I use the lucky one—at least until it isn’t lucky anymore. The point is, I believe in signs, fate, and all that stuff.
This brings me to my new book. I’m excited about it because I am actually working in earnest after a fairly unproductive year. The idea exists, the characters are coming into focus, my rear end is getting used to sitting in a chair for longer than an episode of Law and Order. Yet doubt lingers. Is the story substantial enough? Are the characters interesting enough? Are the turns I’m planning twisty enough.
I needed a sign that I was on the right track, and I got one.
During the pandemic the world has been hunkered down in a bear-cave. Sleep. Eat. Hibernate. Drink from the bottomless well of mesmerizing streaming television. I was right there baking bread and searching for the lost episodes of The Big Bang Theory as I fiddled with this new idea. Then something wonderful happened.
Two days after I penned the first word of this new project, I received an invitation from ATF, Los Angeles to a Zoom meeting. ATF is the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Agency, and this was not a random invitation. I’m a graduate of the ATF Citizen’s Academy. I often join citizen’s law enforcement opportunities for research and adventure, but I graduated well over a year ago. This invitation was a surprise, and it was also a sign that my new book was on the right track.
The inciting incident of this story is fiery explosion. It detonates any number of dramas. For my detective, Finn O’Brien, the situation is personal not professional. He won’t be investigating, the ATF will. That email, that Zoom meeting and the things I learned during the hour gave me confidence in my story. The stars have aligned; Fate has given me the stamp of approval.
Hard work is needed to write a book, but sometimes a little sign is what it takes to go all in.
*(Check out The Bailey Devlin chic lit series where I pour out my superstitious little heart).
Last month I was excited to share that I signed with Wolfpack Publishing, an online publisher. I never thought I would do that (check September to see why I did). This month, I’m having another never-say-never moment. I purchased an Artificial Intelligence editing program called Hemingway.
A friend recommended the program. It was inexpensive. I am always looking for ways to improve my writing.
It is an intelligent assistant for the writer who wants to improve their style. Hemingway cannot replace an excellent editor. In the early stages, guidance on foundational work is essential. No computer program can analyze characterization, plotting, inconsistencies, theme etc. the way a human can. It will not check for grammar or spelling.
Hemingway made me think. The app ‘believes’ that simple is better. The program color codes perceived style problems in the manuscript. Purple indicates hard to read sentences, yellow very hard to read, blue is adverbs, and green is passive voice. The app also highlights phrases that have simpler alternatives.
More often than not, I heeded Hemingway’s advice. Yes, some of my sentences were convoluted. Yes, there were other ways describe action without a word that ended in LY. There were also times I didn’t change a sentence. Yes, that passive voice was necessary. Thank you, Hemingway.
Blogs, articles, and short pieces might find Hemingway more helpful than the novelist. I uploaded chapter by chapter so I wasn’t overwhelmed. It was tedious, but I’m glad I did it.
It is difficult to figure out how to transfer the edited work. I finally used the export as a word doc function. I did have to reformat each chapter. Not a problem, just an extra step.
Hemingway does not check spelling and grammatical errors. It would be a nice addition to the program.
Yes. It is well worth $20. This program made me stop, think, revise, and it gives me reasons why I should pay attention. Because I will have a cleaner manuscript, it will save my real life editor time and therefore save me money on the back end. For traditionally published authors, your editor will be very pleased with the smooth submission.
I recommend that all writers add Hemingway to their tool box. It is a small investment for a big return on how you look at your writing.
P.S. Yes, I did edit this piece in Hemingway. Here is the link.
The movie was based on an adventure novel by Jules Verne written in 1873. The movie had an all star cast with David Niven, Cantinflas, Shriley MacLaine, and Robert Newton, with cameo appearances of many others. It was released October 17. 1956 in the US.
To win a bet, a British inventor, his Chinese valet and an aspiring French artist, leave on a trip to explore the world where they experience adventures and danger as they travel around the world in exactly eighty days.
The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won five, beating out critically and publicly praised films like Friendly Persuasion, The Ten Commandments, Giant and The King and I.
Many of the balloon scenes with Niven and Cantinflas were filmed using a 160-foot (49 m) crane. Even that height bothered Niven, who was afraid of heights. Tom Burges, who was shorter than Niven, was used as a stand-in for scenes where the balloon is seen from a distance.
In 2017 Mark Beaumont, a British cyclist inspired by Verne, set out to cycle across the world in 80 days. He departed from Paris on July 2 and completed the trip in 78 days, 14 hours and 40 minutes.
For a waltz down memory lane, Here is the trailer to the movie. Enjoy!
Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels, and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and lives in Southern California.
2016 GLVWG Anthology (GLVWG Anthologies Book 2)More info →
The beautiful wife of a senate candidate is dead; his disturbed sister is accused.More info →