Should characters eat?

  Should characters in books eat? Or
drink and engage in other normal activities?
In certain cases I believe that eating and drinking adds something to the plots of stories, but like everything I’ve seen it taken to extremes. If the character is attending a feast, then yes, a certain amount of eating and drinking can be included.

 If the character grew up on a farm, stealing an apple for a treat and is suddenly thrust into a palace then a certain amount of details can and should be included, it can add a new insight into the character. That said, there is no reason to describe every bite in detail, nor is there any reason for the character to compare a bowl of stew to what his mother made and list the differences, it’s enough to say that his mother always added onions to it and he misses that, don’t explain that his mother added onions chopped up tiny and sautéed in butter for thirty seconds before she added two tablespoons of vinegar and a dash of honey ten seconds before added pepper to the potatoes, ect, the character won’t know all of that, he’ll just note that its not as good and assume that it’s the lack of onions.
Also, very few characters are going to select a bottle of wine by the smell, or the color of it in the bottle unless she’s been raised around wine and trained from a young age to know just how to select such a wine, nor does it add anything to most stories, unless its a wine that was poisoned and the key to a mystery, that is roughly the only exception I can think of.
Another thing that I see over done is describing other, routine things, as a reader, I don’t care very often if a character washes a plate in a stream and gets his boots wet. I don’t want to think about other normal things, such as hand washing, dressing, ect, I’d rather just gloss over those thing, thank you very much, unless it really adds something to the story, say if the hero is pulling on his boots when an angry horde of Vikings attack and he’s forced to fight them off while wearing only one boot, that adds something in my mind.
What annoys you?

4 thoughts on “Should characters eat?

  1. Alice Noel-Johnson

    I think it all depends on the genre you are reading. in a mystery novel such details can be hidden clues to whodunit. Also, in some romantic or literary fiction such details can provide a feeling that makes the reader a part of the story.


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