Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Best of Writing 101: My Unhealthy Relationship...with Writing About Food

I'm in a toxic relationship. It's not easy to admit or to talk about, but there it is. I have such a bad relationship that it seeps into everything I do...and almost everything I write. And as a writer who's having this toxic relationship, it's impossible for me to write about this relationship without giving readers a skewed, distorted viewpoint. But I know that I can't fix this toxic relationship...so I've found a way to make it work with my writing. If you have a personal issue or some strange quirk, you can't ignore it. You can't write around it. All you can do is embrace it...just like I have.


The Girl with the Most Cake

Those of you who follow my colleague Annalisa Crawford may be aware that I've been engaged in a battle with my toxic relationship for years. I am winning, but not without casualties. My toxic relationship is with food. We've been having a torrid love-hate relationship since...well, perhaps since I was born. Me and food just can't love each other the way we want to, and so we find ourselves constantly at odds instead.



This all makes it very difficult for me to write about food in a way that seems reasonable to people who don't have my hang-ups. You see, I'm deeply in love with food. I want to do nothing but eat it all day. And I'm not talking about lettuce. I want fried things, and battered things, and sweet baked things...and frankly, I want it all to be chocolate-dipped and covered with sugar, too. 

But, I've been on a decently strict diet (some would say insanely strict) for about three years now. Iron-handed control is the only way I've been able to successfully manage my weight. But all this food obsession has given me a very off-kilter perception of food and eating and what normal people eat. Lucky for me, I know that I've got this issue.

And I know that I can't write about food normally. My characters can't go out to eat dinner as average people would, nor can they eat regular meals and snacks that other everyday people eat. They can't do this because I don't do this, and I don't know how to write about people who do because all my experiences with food border on the psychotic. So when I write about food in my books, it's always in the extreme.

In the Deck of Lies series, there is a character who's constantly eating diet foods and terrible-sounding, low-calorie stuff. This is me. There's another character in the series who's always craving "real" food. This is also me. In Hope's Rebellion, one character completely devours all bread she can find. This is who I want to be. See how it works? 

If you're weird about something, write weird about it because that's what you know and that's where you'll shine. I don't try to write about people with normal food habits, because I'm not at all familiar with that. So I write about people with weird food habits, because that's me. If you have an unhealthy relationship or an obsession or a hang-up or even an unreasonable fear, use it. Don't try to avoid it or write around it or ignore it. It's yours, so find a way to put it on the page. These are the kinds of quirks that give your writing its unique voice, and make your work unlike anyone else's. 

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